DOGS AND WATER, SHORTCOMINGS, EXIT WOUNDS in Mercury top 10

“Best of 2007: Graphic novels” / Mercury News / Randy Myers / December 23, 2007

If you wanted to be cool in 2007, you wrote a graphic novel.
If you wanted to make a hit film, you bought the rights to a comic and made a movie out of it.
Publishers caught on to this trend and started releasing lines of graphic novels.
But did this sudden comics explosion result in quality, not just quantity? Surprisingly, yes.

For that reason, keeping a list of the best graphic novels of the year to a mere 10 was a tough task.

Here, then, are my favorite graphic novels from 2007.

4. "Dogs & Water," by Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): A nameless man embarks on a lonely odyssey through a desolate, temperamental world. This haunting and episodic story has been permanently lodged in my psyche since I read it last spring. Nilsen is a comics poet, writing a story that perfectly captures moods, feelings and metaphors. Do read this man.

2. "Shortcomings," by Adrian Tomine (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): Say you've created a mini-comic and framed it around a cantankerous lead character who is not only smug, but a bit unlikable. How in the heck, then, do you make readers care? For the answer, dive into Tomine's "Shortcomings," an on-target look at the disintegration of a oxygen-deprived relationship. The lead -- Ben Tanaka -- deserves to go down as one of the most intriguing and well-written characters encountered in literature. But other supporting characters are equally unforgettable. Made me dying to seek out Tomine's "Optic Nerve" minicomics.

1. "Exit Wounds," by Rutu Modan (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95): Darn that "Persepolis." Nearly every publisher scurried around in 2007, trying to mirror the success of Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical work. Appearances would seem to suggest that "Exit Wounds" would be a sort-of Israeli version of Satrapi's book That would be wrong. Modan defies those expectations with an elegant -- and fictional - story that rotates around a Tel Aviv taxi cab driver trying to find out if his dad was killed in a suicide bombing. Beckoning him to uncover the truth is his father's complex younger lover, Numi. You assume you know where Modan is headed with the story -- which vividly depicts everyday life in Israel. But you will be wrong. This is an assured book that speaks quietly whenever you expect it to shout its demands. You'll instantly want to reread it, not only to better appreciate its grace, but to see how effortlessly Modan pulls off such a delicately balanced story arc.

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