The explosion in quality graphic novels continued in 2009. This longer format continues to innovate; any one of these 10 graphic novels might have been the best of the year 10 years ago. This week, Word Balloons will look at the best graphic-novel format comics released for the first time in the United States in 2009; next week, we’ll look at the best periodical comic-book releases. 1. "Asterios Polyp”: David Mazzuchelli moved from literate superhero crowd-pleasers ("Batman: Year One,” "Daredevil: Born Again”) to more personal independent work ("Rubber Blanket”) and adaptations ("City of Glass”). Now, Mazzuchelli has released perhaps his finest work, a tale of an architect forced to change his world view. Asterios is a "paper architect,” creating brilliant constructions that can never be built. His hubris leads to his fall in a book that can be seen as an updated Greek tragedy. Each character in the novel has his or her own particular illustrative style and color scheme; Mazzuchelli is using color to convey ideas in a way not attempted by most graphic novelists. The book is all about style, design and visual language, and Mazzuchelli is moving the discussion of all of these forward with "Asterios Polyp.” 2. "George Sprott (1894-1975) ”: Cartoonist Seth is a master of creating nostalgic longings, often for things that didn’t really exist. His examination of the (fictional) life of Canadian broadcaster George Sprott does so, even while exploring the many not-so-great legacies of his title character. 3. "A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge”: Nonfiction comics writer/artist Josh Neufeld follows the lives of six Hurricane Katrina survivors before, during and after the storm. 4. "Parker: The Hunter”: Darwyn Cooke ("The New Frontier”) adapts the first of Donald Westlake’s "Parker” novels, which he wrote under the name Richard Stark. The double-crossed small-time hood Parker is out to get revenge on those who did him wrong, and he does so with explosive consequences. Cooke is the perfect artist to adapt this 60s-era hard-boiled tale. 5. "The Big Kahn”: Writer Neil Kleid and artist Nicolas Cinquegrani create a book that explores identity and second chances. At the funeral of esteemed Rabbi David Kahn, his family discovers he was never Jewish, but an Irish con man. The rabbi’s wife and children must deal with the aftermath and find out what this deception will mean to the family’s legacy. 6. "Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe”: Slacker 24-year-old Scott Pilgrim continues to battle the evil exes of his new girlfriend, Ramona Flowers, in pitched, video-game-style battles. But he also has to face up to his own insecurities and relationship difficulties. Writer-artist Bryan O’Malley’s anime-influenced art continues to improve, and "Scott Pilgrim” maintains its humor in this penultimate volume. 7. "High Moon”: Former Oklahoma resident David Gallaher and artist Steve Ellis created this werewolf Western that was one of the first Zuda.com contest winners. Now available in print, "High Moon” Volume 1 collects the first three Web storylines. 8. "Stitches”: Children’s book illustrator David Small’s memoir covers his difficult childhood, where excessive X-rays from his radiologist father led to the young man getting cancer of the throat. 9. "A Drifting Life”: Yoshihiro Tatsumi ("Abandon the Old in Tokyo”) details his post-World War II life in this graphic novel, published for the first time in the U.S. this year, by Drawn and Quarterly. 10. "The Photographer”: This graphic novel pairs Didier Lefevre’s photography with the artwork of Emmanuel Guibert ("Alan’s War”) to tell the story of Lefevre’s journey to Afghanistan in 1986 with Doctors Without Borders.
ONLINERead more about comics on Price’s blog. Blog.newsok.com/nerdage Nerdage is sponsored by Second Chance Books & Comics.