Craig Thompson wrote and drew this bittersweet, 600-page, semiautobiographical story of a young man raised in a strict evangelical tradition, haunted by feelings of guilt and shame as adolescence gives way to adulthood. His attempts to navigate a sexual relationship cause him to question his most deeply felt beliefs, and it's that extra, achingly heartfelt layer that elevates Blankets above similarly themed "sensitive artist is sensitive, artfully" indie comics. Thompson grapples with big ideas about faith, art and sex, yet his art is always expressive, intimate and highly specific.
Ernie Pook's Comeek
Lynda Barry remembers what it's like to be a kid with a vividness and emotionality that the rest of us have irrevocably lost. All the confusion and logical leaps and frustrations of not being heard, all the hormonal hoops that puberty forces us to jump through — it's all still so richly available to her, and for years, in the syndicated strip Ernie Pook's Comeek, which appeared in alt-weeklies across the nation, she laid it all out on the page. To read her characters' adventures — many of which read like breathlessly confessional diary entries — is to feel the shock of recognition, again and again: young Marlys, blissfully unself-conscious, for now anyway; older Maybonne, yearning, aching to be cool; and poor lost Freddie, overmatched by the world. Their family life is hard — Barry never turns away from pain and heartbreak — but they find joy in music, and in creating something, even if it's just a daisy-chain tiara or a rubber-band ball.
Hark! A Vagrant
Ever wanted to go dude-watchin' with the Brontes? Had an unhealthy fascination with obscure Canadian history? Really been annoyed at physically impossible female superhero costumes? Have we got a comic for you! Kate Beaton's deliriously silly (when it isn't giving you all the feels) Hark! A Vagrant is one of those comics that makes you feel smarter for having read it — and then makes you head to the bookshelf to catch up with her universe of literary and historical references. Her beady-eyed characters smirk and caper, her rubbery lines dance all over the screen, and she can use a word like "velocipedestrienne" and make you love it.