Gilbert Hernandez, Drawn & Quarterly
Bullies, girls, glitter rock, punk rock, anger, heart attacks, sloth, slackers, middle age, middle-aged spread, death, grief and life, or what passes for it: Gilbert Hernandez's disjointed snapshots of his protagonist Bobby's existence takes him from youth to decrepitude. Graphic novel as time travel anyone?
5 Ant Colony
Michael DeForge, Drawn & Quarterly
Like nothing else (and what higher praise can you give than that). But let's give comparisons a go. Michael DeForge's account of love and war in a dying ant colony reads like someone has spliced the genes of a Woody Allen film with those of a David Lynch movie. The result is the blackest of black comedy. But that doesn't tell the whole story. That doesn't explain the originality of the art, the on-the-page rightness of the world DeForge creates, the acid colours he uses and the off-the-cuff-but-perfectly-judged imagination at work. Here spiders look like dogs, centipedes like extended tubular limousines and the ant queen is an HR Giger character redesigned by Tex Avery. It's funny and it's horrible and it has the best battle scene - as black ants take on red ants - ever.
2 Beautiful Darkness
Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet, Drawn & Quarterly
This French fairy tale is easily the darkest thing on the list and yet it looks so pretty. A gorgeously painted fable about our capacity for cruelty, full of tiny cartoon people and all-too-human-sized pain, created by a husband-and-wife creative team is a remarkable poisoned candy apple of a book.