Clyde Fans (Seth, Drawn & Quarterly). More than 20 years in the making, Seth’s generational saga of fan salesmen from mid-20th century Ontario is a towering work of literary fiction and a master class in comics storytelling at its most polished. Seth traces the story of two brothers, commercial-minded Abe and more sensitive Simon, through the mundane tribulations of small business and family drama. Though his art style evolved from the first pages drawn in the late 1990s to the final chapter completed last year, there’s an astonishing consistency to the lyrical drawing and leisurely pace. No one in the business gets more out of silence than Seth. Combined with a story that draws comparison to the work of Arthur Miller and William Faulkner, you’ve got an instant addition to the canon of 21st century classics.
The Hard Tomorrow (Eleanor Davis, Drawn & Quarterly). There are lots of ways to react to the current political climate. Eleanor Davis chooses hope over fear, and it pays off with one of the most devastating, gut-wrenching, and ultimately life-affirming works of the year in any medium. The Hard Tomorrow takes place in an uncomfortably-familiar near future that’s just one step down the line from our current socio-political shambles. Davis wrings loads of drama out of her cast and keeps the story moving with spare, minimalist black and white artwork.
Hot Comb (Ebony Flowers, Drawn and Quarterly). Another strong debut, this charming collection of personal remembrances from Ebony Flowers finds inspiration in the fathomless depths of black women’s hair. The first and longest story is about young Ebony’s quest to get a perm to straighten out her kinky locks, and how this played out among her friends and family. Fake ads for hair care products crop up throughout the book as well. A natural storyteller with a great ear for dialogue, Flowers works in a simple cartooning style that manages to get across the essentials of facial expression and body language, while bringing the scenes and characters alive in the minds of readers. A great example of how the universal power of comics can make any topic accessible to any audience in the right hands.