Michael Cavna & David Betanourt
THE WASHINGTON POST – 2021 delivered a wealth of worthy graphical works, from anthology to autobiography, as well as featured illustrations by such star cartoonists as Art Spiegelman (Street Cop) and Jaime Hernandez (Queen of the Ring).
Here are 10 of the year’s graphic narratives that stayed with us, in their power to create unique immersive worlds and help spark illumination through illustration.
RUN: BOOK ONE, BY JOHN LEWIS, ANDREW AYDIN, L FURY AND NATE POWELL
The late civil rights hero died before Run’s release, but Lewis left this riveting follow-up memoir to his March trilogy – this time centring on the movement after Selma – as a legacy of ever-relevant ‘60s lessons in social progress.
THE SECRET TO SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH BY ALISON BECHDEL
The Fun Home creator’s first new graphic novel in nearly a decade begins as a memoir of her lifelong passion for physical pursuits, but as she transcends her notions of self-sufficiency, the insights move into the metaphysical. From marathons to mindfulness, it’s an exhilarating six-decade journey.
FAR SECTOR BY NK JEMISIN AND JAMAL CAMPBELL
Jemisin offers a new power-ringed rookie as the Green Lantern – a lone space cop who answers the question: How can a superhero protect a world that has banned emotions from everyday life?
HIMAWARI HOUSE BY HARMONY BECKER
Becker follows up her work on George Takei’s moving memoir with this emotionally and culturally rich young adult (YA) story that puts the author’s range of talents on full display.
A trio of Tokyo foreign-exchange students navigates the rapids of teenage life – adventures rendered with a masterful hand and an impressive ear for dialogue.
WHEN I GROW UP: THE LOST AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF SIX YIDDISH TEENAGERS BY KEN KRIMSTEIN
The New Yorker cartoonist and gifted storyteller re-surfaces the long-lost stories of Eastern European youths on the cusp of World World II. It is an epic undertaking, told in tones both evocative and haunting.
THE WAITING BY KEUM SUK GENDRY-KIM
The author follows her acclaimed Grass with this semi-autobiographical story of how war can scatter a family, creating a separation that breeds desperation.
The artist’s stark brushstrokes and narrative masterstrokes make an affecting combination, as hope and heartbreak span generations.
WAKE: THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF WOMEN-LED SLAVE REVOLTS BY REBECCA HALL AND HUGO MARTÍNEZ
Hall, the scholarly descendant of enslaved ancestors, delves into the forensics and physical records of human bondage, focussing on the forgotten female warriors who spurred uprisings.
This blend of fact and fiction, of pursuit and lasting pain, is a must-read achievement.
COVID CHRONICLES: A COMICS ANTHOLOGY BY KENDRA BOILEAU AND RICH JOHNSON
Scores of cartoonists offer an affecting mosaic of pandemic life, as told in short, eclectic stories – from the lighter touch of Jason Chatfield, who was afflicted with the virus, to meditations by a grieving Shelley Wall.
MONSTERS BY BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH
A master artist delivers his magnum opus more than three decades in the making – a pen-and-ink epic about a World War II veteran that’s as visceral as it is visual.
STRANGE ADVENTURES BY TOM KING, MITCH GERADS AND EVAN SHANER
The history of less-heralded deep-space character Adam Strange is taken to fresh creative heights, with DC’s Batman and Mister Terrific deftly stitched into the action.