The Best Comics of 2019

When reading comics, the ones that seem particularly interesting end up in this little shelf in the living room that I can then sit and ponder.

I meant to do this blog post at least a month ago, but time flies, so here goes. And I don’t have time tonight to write anything insightful (hah! as if), so just a list and some snaps, OK?

House of the Black Spot by Ben Sears (Koyama)

There’s been so many comics in the past few years drawn in styles similar to this, and I’m rather fed up with it. Especially since it’s a signal that the book is coming from a video game/TV cartoon kind of place, and I have no interest in that.

But I bought it anyway, since it’s on Koyama, and it’s is funny and intriguing. It’s got a real mystery plot and everything.

Strange Growths 16 1/2 by Jenny Zervakis

Spit and a Half did a compilation of her comics, and it was amazeballs. This is one is somehow slight and heavy at the same time.

Guts by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)

Yeah, yeah, I know, but I really enjoyed this. It’s a peek into a totally different psyche. She sort of made me understand what it’s like to feel like the character in the book, and that’s something. Besides, it just reads so well. It’s almost transparent. You have to wonder what the comics made by people growing up with her comics are going to look like. They should start arriving in… five years time?

Non 7 edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

I think Non is as close as we get to an anthology that defines comics in 2019. I don’t think there’s a dud in this issue, and it’s got a great mix of longer and shorter pieces. Still hate the shiny, thin paper.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #50 by Ryan North, Derek Charm, Erika Henderson and people (Marvel)

They totally spiked the landing on this one. I laughed, I cried. Wish there had been 50 more issues.

You Don’t Get There From Here #48 by Carrie McNinch

The regular issues (with the one-strip-per-day) are kinda hypnotic, but this special issue about her trip to Japan is a lot of fun.

The Death of the Master by Patrick Kyle (Koyama)

This one annoyed me for some reason I can’t remember now, but I also remember being drawn into the rhythm of the book. You sit there flipping and flipping and flipping the pages and it’s just this thing.

The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis (Drawn & Quarterly)

I love Eleanor Davis, and in particular her previous (I think?) thing; that biking thing? That was awesome. This isn’t that awesome, but the artwork is gorgeous and the storytelling goes against the grain, but on purpose. Which is interesting.

Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden (First Second)

Since it’s on First Second, I was totally prepared to hate it, but it’s kinda great? Her best work yet? Somewhat randomly, what I remember most about this book is the colouring: Those blotches everywhere fascinate me.

Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers (Drawn & Quarterly)

This comic seems to arrive out of a alternate, much better timeline, where Carol Tyler is the touchstone from whence comics sprang. I love the artwork, and I was just fascinated, every page, by the stories and anecdotes being told.

Blood and Drugs by Lance Ward (Birdcage Bottom Books)

This has the rattiest drawing I’ve seen in quite a while, but there’s an in-story explanation for the style. I have absolutely no idea whether anything in the book is true, and perhaps it has a bit too much story-like structure to be true, but it doesn’t make much difference: This is gripping.

Pittburgh by Frank Santoro (New York Review Books)

Wasn’t this released in 2019? The indicia says “2018” and that’s when it was originally released in France, but didn’t this edition arrive in 2019? Anyway, it’s Santoro’s best work. I was really disappointed by his previous book (the Pompeii one), but this is just about perfect. This could totally have read as a private project of interest to nobody, but instead it’s a person project of interest to all.

Tongues #3 by Anders Nilsen (Fantagraphics)

Nobody makes comics like Nilsen. The mundane and the extraordinary exist on the same plane. (And look at those colours. Just look at them.) And the plot here is mystifying and intricate. I love the materiality of the comic, too. It’s just so pleasant to hold and read.

Glenn Ganges in The River at Night by Kevin Huizenga (Fantagraphics)

Everybody has this on their “best of 2019” lists, right? It’s still good, though. I love Huizenga’s deceptively digressive style, working on the same points over and over and diverging and then coming together into something unexpectedly weighty. And it’s just compulsively readable.

OK, that’s it for 2019? I read a ton of comics last year, but not a lot of the new stuff made an impression on me… or perhaps I just forgot to read some stuff. Because I did read a bunch of great stuff from 2018 (and before), so I may just have missed stuff…

Speaking of which, here’s older stuff that I liked:

Never in a Million Years by Cole Johnson

This is super cute. Yes, it screams “young person’s comic”, but it’s a good read.

Greenhouse by Debbie Fong (Pommo Press)

This one starts off innocently enough and then grows progressively weirder while everything seems normal. I love all the objects in the book.

Gustave Flaubert Trois Contes by Christopher Adams (2d cloud)

What 2019 needed was 2d cloud; in previous years they’ve been the ones to publish the most interesting books. But they’re more or less defunct now? I ordered a bunch of their early minis, and they didn’t disappoint. The storytelling here is like nothing else.

Fowl Weather by Rachel Katz and Stephanie Davidson (Pyrite Press)

Love the clean, slightly abstract artwork. The story, building up from unnerving little details into a whole thing is spiffy, too.

Malarkey #2 by November Garcia

I love Garcia, and these perhaps-autobio-perhaps-fiction little vignettes pack so much into so little space.

I Love You by Sara Lautman (Retrofit/Big Planet)

Was this the best comic I read in 2019? I think it may have been, flipping through the pages now? Impeccable comedic timing and a feeling that everything is all too real.

Alack Sinner: The Age of Disenchantment by Muñoz and Sampayo (IDW)

On the other hand, here’s 300 further pages of Alack Sinner, and is anything better than reading pages drawn by Muñoz? IDW has published a lot of nonsense, but they can do no wrong for me now after publishing the two Alack Sinner volumes.

Parallel Lives by Oliver Schrauwen (Fantagraphics)

Perhaps Schrauwen is taking the piss, but reading this book is quite an experience.

The New World by Chris Reynolds (New York Review Comics)

Finally a comprehensive reprinting of the Chris Reynolds bits from Mauretania. All together like this they do lose some of the mystery that comes from having read only half the installations before, but it’s still wonderful.

One Dirty Tree by Noah van Sciver (Uncivilized)

I have no idea how I missed this when it was published. I usually buy everything Uncivilized publishes, and I’m a Noah van Sciver fan (you always have to have the first name there when typing “van Sciver fan”), but still… Anyway, this is a harsher look at his childhood than I would have expected. It does work, though: The back-and-forth between Noah van Sciver now and his childhood mediates things somewhat.

New Construction by Sam Alden (Uncivilized)

I must have read this before, but I re-bought it by accident? I think? Anyway, the artwork is fabulous, and the first story is perfect. The second story reads like the script to an indie movie.

The Artist by Anna Haifisch (Breakdown)

Post-DeForge? Yup. But funny and affecting and original.

Retrograde Orbit by Kristyna Baczynski (Avery Hill)

Yes, it sometimes is a bit stilted and stiff and reads like something from a movie, but there are other moments that make up for that, and we end up with a really affecting story.

All the Answers by Michael Kupperman (Gallery 13)

Kupperman’s comics in the 90s and the first decade of the 2000s were the funniest comics ever made. This isn’t that, and when I read about the somewhat high concept here (it’s basically a biography of his father who was a childhood star) my expectations were very low. But it’s fascinating to read how Kupperman tries to understand his father, and the story of the fame thing itself is interesting.

Chlorine Gardens by Keiler Roberts (Koyama)

As usual from Roberts, these are short vignettes about her home life. Most of the anecdotes can be classified as “aww, cute”, but the cumulative effect is… almost… savage. It’s weird.

OK, that’s it. Took less time than I thought, and now I can go back to the stuff I really really have to do AARGH

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