Comics writers and artists are often better equipped to tackle contemporary events and issues before anyone working in any other medium, and many graphic novels that came out this year demonstrate this perfectly. Both the anxiety and tentative sense of possibility that comes from living in deteriorating liberal democracies, climate change, and changing paradigms around sex and gender are all on display in everything from superhero series to indie comics. All these ideas and much more are explored in these titles, which represent some of the most innovative art and sharpest writing to be found in 2018.
2. Love That Bunch by Aline Kominsky-Crumb
Today there are a multitude of female icons in books, movies, and television shows who defy stereotypes of womanhood and take agency over their lives. But when Aline Kominsky-Crumb was making art in the 1970s, this was rare. As Hillary Chute writes in the forward to Love That Bunch, the collected edition of her work published by Drawn & Quarterly, “Kominsky-Crumb’s comics offer a revelatory look into the complicated, contradictory lives of women.” Republishing her stories of women who explore their own bodies and struggle to find creative respect and success, Kominsky-Crumb’s graphic storytelling reads as if it was written today. —Megan Liberty
4. Berlin by Jason Lutes
Jason Lutes has been publishing chapters of this opus since 1996, but it was only this year that it was finally completed and collected in a single massive volume. Published by Drawn & Quarterly, this chronicle of the waning years of Germany’s Weimar Republic is sprawling in its historical survey but intimate in its depiction of the lives of the people living out that history. Lutes’s drawings render every cobblestone and craggy face in Berlin with transporting detail, and he understands the interplay between the personal and the political like few other writers. —DS