When the 2005 London Book Fair declared graphic novels to be 'the fastest-growing sector in publishing', nobody inside the comics business was surprised. All the indications were there - the popularity of movie tie-in superhero books among young male readers, the phenomenal success of manga for female teens, even the creeping respectability of more 'art house' fodder, as reviewed in pages such as these.
In fact, the demographic least likely to find a graphic novel in their Christmas stocking this year is kids - which is odd considering the number of definitions of comics that cling to the idea that their juvenile nature is their key characteristic.
Pyongyang, by Guy Delisle, is a 'graphic travelogue' about the author's two-month stay in North Korea. Part comic observation and part political blog, the style certainly owes a lot to Joe Sacco, and like Sacco's work you get a sense of the country that you might not have done from, say, documentary photography - the cowed populace, the fetishisation of the Kim dynasty, the mad military museums. Delisle plays his 'stranger in a strange land' role to the hilt, and even lends his (strictly mandated) tour guide a copy of 1984. Great stuff - and proof that the comics panel can be another kind of window on the world.
PYONGYANG in the UK GUARDIAN