Below, in purely alphabetical order, are 12 of the best bound comics volumes — be they complete graphic novels or collections of serialized chapters — released so far this year. Our criteria for inclusion were that every one of the volumes had to be released in 2017, they had to be the first printing of the material in a bound volume (i.e. no reprints or individual issues of a monthly comic), and they had to have been originally written in English (with the exception of one that has no words at all). Okay, onward to the funny books.
Boundless by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn + Quarterly)
Jillian Tamaki is no stranger to acclaim, having published beloved works both on her own (SuperMutant Magic Academy) and with her cousin, Mariko (This One Summer). But Boundless should be the book that formally marks her as one of the comics medium’s best up-and-coming auteurs. It’s a strange tome, and deliciously so — its short stories chronicle an array of odd situations ranging from a mysterious audio recording that sparks the creation of a cult to an alternate-reality Facebook where everyone has a doppelgänger whose life you can check in on. This diversity of premises is matched by a diversity of aesthetic styles, from the cleanly formal to the jaggedly emotional. There are comparisons to be made to Jorge Luis Borges’s matter-of-fact surrealism and Adrian Tomine’s slice-of-life vignettes, but this book is passionately and perfectly Tamaki’s own vision.
Terms and Conditions: The Graphic Novel by R. Sikoryak (Drawn + Quarterly)
At first, Terms and Conditions strikes you as a novelty item. I mean, come on, a comics adaptation of the iTunes terms and conditions agreement? Maybe good for a quick laugh, and little else. But no, veteran creator R. Sikoryak has used his odd little prompt to craft something wonderful and enlightening. The unique tome follows the travels of Steve Jobs as he utters the T&C verbatim, and every page of the book is done in the style of a different comics artist. The impressions are uncanny, making this a technical achievement of the highest order; the juxtaposition of narrative art and utterly nonnarrative text is a clever mental experiment that tricks your brain into seeing instant connections that are entirely the product of your imagination (… or are they?). But most important, Sikoryak is making a bold and wonderful statement that all comics art — from the commercial superhero-dom of Todd McFarlane to the foundational imaginarium of Winsor McCay; from the NPR-approved highbrow imagery of Alison Bechdel to Richie Rich — is part of one beautiful tapestry. Indeed, this book is that tapestry.