Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sunday January 8th, 2012 Top Graphic Novels of 2011

My personal journey into the world of graphic novels and comics has continued throughout 2011, and I have discovered new titles and series that further convince me of this genre’s value and wide-ranging scope. Some of my very favourite reads this year have used both words and pictures to tell their funny, interesting, and immersive stories:

Hark, a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton can be found on any number of top 2011 lists, and for good reason. This book combines literary and historical references with pop culture and just plain hilarious observations. Whether “Dude Watchin’ with the Brontes,” mocking Canadian Heritage tv moments, attending “Flying School with Billy Bishop” or telling the story of “Stompin’ Tom Connors versus the Music Industry,” Beaton’s seemingly tossed-off doodles affectionately skewer her topics while showcasing her vast knowledge about Canada, world history and literature. You’ll never think about the Trudeaus in quite the same way again.

Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine is a short memoir both in length and size. It begins with an engagement and ends with the characters eating burgers and fries on their wedding night. In between, Tomine wryly covers recognizable situations from seating charts to dancing lessons. This book is very slight, but packs a heavy emotional punch in its depiction of our cultural understandings of wedding traditions.

Binky Under Pressure and the other Binky titles by Ashley Spires are ostensibly meant for juvenile readers, but really are tailor-made for pet lovers. If you’ve ever wondered about strange cat behaviour, maybe your cat is in fact a Space Cat and completing re-certification challenges or recovering after a journey into perilous Outer Space. Chi’s Sweet Home by Konami Kanata is a similar series told from a cat’s perspective, but more realistic than Binky’s sometimes fantastic escapades. Chi’s story is told from kittenhood and all the challenges therein, including the discovery of a litterbox’s true purpose (not a fun sandbox, as Chi first expected) and we navigate a housecat’s life right along with him. Both Binky and Chi are lots of fun for kids and adults.

Bunny Drop by Yumi Unita has a premise could be the plot of a new sitcom: a single man takes on an adorable small girl and learns about the truly important things in life. Luckily, Bunny Drop manages to move beyond cliché and is a touching and sympathetic look at how we make our own families. Daikichi’s struggles to connect with Rin, sort out daycare, adjust his work hours and make other adjustments in his life as a single parent and father to a young girl are handled realistically in a way not always shown in most entertainment.

Mirror Mind by Tory Woollcott is an important story. Her memoir about her dyslexic childhood experience is as eye-opening as it is gut-wrenching. If you’ve ever struggled to understand how a learning disability impacts someone’s entire life, not only their school days, then Tory’s visual depictions will show you that world. Hopefully, her story is unique in terms of the horrific early scholastic experiences, but the struggle she faced as a child who learns differently is recognizable from everyone’s childhood.

Consider adding a graphic novel to your reading list in 2012. You might be pleasantly surprised
by how much story and heart a few scribbled pictures can contain.

Laura Prinselaar

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