These graphic novels have been chosen because they were all released in the past 6 months and equally combine qualities of well-crafted concepts and remarkable artwork to create solid visual narratives. They aren’t the only great graphic novels that have been released in recent months, but they are notable, and worth considering as near-misses if they haven’t appeared on your radar during release announcements. None of them happen to be standard superhero stories, but that’s not an essential judgment on superhero comics. With high-quality genre comics on the rise, there’s more to choose from, and these represent a wide range of story types that might appeal to omnivorous readers who are looking for new fare to chew on. These choices appear in alphabetical order to clarify that there’s not a differentiation or ranking involved. They are so varied in content and style that it would be pretty groundless to try to decide whether one scores more points than another for quality. They are all quality; that’s why you don’t want to miss out on them.
Firstly, CITY IN THE DESERT by Moro Rogers from Archaia, subtitled, “The Monster Problem”:
Secondly, there’s HARBINGER: “Omega Rising”, the first collection of Valiant’s intriguing, re-launched series. Though many Valiant comics lines are worthy of attention, the concepts behind HARBINGER are particularly compelling. It has many of the qualities of a classic hero story: a teenager, unusual super-human powers, but placing human destiny on one figure, who does not, we may note, have to wear a cape, and seeing him interact as a terrifying figure in society is gripping.
Thirdly, PUNK ROCK JESUS by Sean Murphy, will deviously undermine just about every assumption you start to build as you read it and leave the lasting impression of intense, disturbed facial expressions etched, albeit beautifully, on your mind. Setting Murphy loose on his own series seems to be just about one of the best decisions Vertigo has ever made in a long line of some pretty good decisions (though Oni can claim that honor first with the award-winning OFF ROAD).
Next up: RAVINE, from Top Cow via Image, which you may not have heard of, but that’s the point of this list. It’s a work of pure fantasy in the sword and sorcery tradition with Dave McKean-like title pages and calligraphically accented water-color maps to guide the reader. Stjepan Sejic combines a photo-realistic and painterly style with crowded scenes of pure spectacle as well as keeping an eye on developing mythical weight for RAVINE’s characters through giving them room to breathe. The story, by Sejic and Ron Marz, is well-paced, but doesn’t make any allowances for falling behind in names and plot elements.
Lastly, one you probably have heard of: THINK TANK by Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal, also from Top Cow/Image. It’s not a heavy or dense book, collecting only 4 issues, but it doesn’t have to be and it also contains a fair number of extra features for those who have read the issues. Like Tony Stark, David Loren is a genius, and like Stark, he wants out of the weapons game, but when a genius is posed with a seemingly unsolvable problem, their own self-created captivity, that’s a fresh story based on rather magnetic characterization.
So, if you had 5 recent graphic novels with you on a desert island, this wouldn’t be a bad mini-library to keep you sane. I’d also add that these are likely to stand up to rereading and aren’t outlandishly dated in their content despite current, relevant references, so may well develop into “classics” of their generation over time. One thing is certain, whether you read them or not, they are likely to influence the development of graphic novels still to come because works like these tend to seep into the pop culture imagination in subtle ways. Happy reading.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.