My favourite comics of the 2010s

About this list

I’m not suggesting that these are the best comics of the last decade (I don’t think a list like that is even possible), but I would recommend them to anyone interested in comics. They are biased towards indie press and autobiography because those are the comics that generally have meant the most to me. I have kept the descriptions brief for most of them and many include my personal reasons for choosing them which are subjective. Feel free to click on the titles to read more about them elsewhere. This selection is a bit longer than most best of lists, but it’s my blog and I felt like it.

If you are interested, I wrote an accompanying post about why I’ve spent so much time reading comics over the past decade and what I love about them.

I also want to recommend this “Best of” comics list by Kim Jooha on Solrad that focuses on artists, zines, indie comics, and includes a great quote by Elena Gorfinkel on some of the problems inherent in best of  lists.

  • Susceptible by Geneviève Castrée
    • Geneviève Castrée’s delicately illustrated but powerful memoir about an imperfect girl (Goglu, who is meant to represent Castrée ) forced to grow up at too young an age and raise herself. This comic narrates childhood emotional neglect, bullying, and finding community in punk rock, visually depicting loneliness and isolation through a unique intricate style and use of negative space. It takes place in Quebec and BC. I felt very lucky to see some of Castrée’s art up close at the Canadian Indie Comics exhibit at the Art Gallery of Hamilton this year. There was a quiet alcove dedicated to her work.  Castrée, a musician as well, passed away from cancer in 2016 when she was only thirty-five, and that loss was felt heavily among many communities. Her art was brilliant and emotional.
  • Beautiful Darkness (and also Satania!) by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    • At first, this appears to be a very cute Disney-like fairy tale that takes place in a lush forest— but very soon you will realize that this is a terrifying fairy tale (closer to the original fairy tales), that takes place surrounding the decomposing body of a corpse in the middle of the woods. The cute characters are horrifyingly wicked, cruel, and vain, and the reader must follow the sweet protagonist as she painfully uncovers the truth of her dark world and dreams. (reviewed for Canada Comics Open Library’s Halloween blog post).

(image from artist’s online store)

  • Stone Fruit Chapter 1 + 2 by Lee Lai
    • A beautifully illustrated chronicle of a relationship, the messiness of relationships, and monstrous feelings. There was a rhythm to the comic as I read, reminding me of of steadily running forward and jumping across rooftops in dreams (anyone else?). The brush line work is amazing.
  • In-Between Days by Teva Harrison
    • In-Between Days narrates how Teva Harrison lived with her illness after being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in her 30s. It is told in diary-like entries that examine themes of identity, anger, fear, pain, death, sadness, memories, hope, and relationships. It is beautifully drawn, funny, and very touching. It is one of my favourite graphic autobiographies. I was so sad to hear of her death last year. She was a very generous artist, open and encouraging to cartoonists who were just starting out.
  • Alone by Christophe Chabouté
    • A wordless comic about a lonely lighthouse keeper who escapes his rock prison through his imagination. Told in powerful contrasting black and white illustrations. Hopeful and heartwarming, with stunning art.
  • Earthling by Aisha Franz
    • A magical realism coming of age narrative about two sisters experiencing the awkwardness and loneliness of growing up, and the affects of their father’s absence. It is told in dark pencil which gives it an ephemeral quality, a feeling like you can press down and smudge the pages with your fingers. It reminded me of how childhood feels so ephemeral as you get older, yet feels so long and permanent when you are a child.
  • My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris
    • My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a beautifully illustrated (with Bic ballpoint pens on drawing paper/ruled notebook paper!) semi-autobiographical historical murder mystery (1960s Chicago). The story is manifested in the thoughtful and fascinating diary entries and observations of a complex monster/horror-loving girl protagonist. The story includes themes and experiences of race, class, gender, queerness, and trauma (through the experiences of Holocaust survivors), and what it means to be or feel monstrous. Also, I knew I would like it because my favourite thing is monsters.
  • The End of Summer and Are you Listening? by Tillie Walden
    • Architectural and surreal landscapes make up the backdrops of these melancholy and beautiful comics that will sweep you away. Perfect for curling up with a quilt and getting lost in during a cold fall or winter day.
  • Eden by Pablo Holmberg
    • Sweet and funny 4 panel comics that are meditative to read. I always enjoy returning to this one and checking in on these characters in their small window worlds. If you enjoy reading Moomin by Tove Jansson, this little book is for you.
  • Somnambulance by Fiona Smyth
    • I wish that I had seen these comics earlier in my life. Fiona Smyth is a wonderful artist and I just really connect with her work. Somnambulance is a retrospective of comics and artwork that uniquely stands out as a hybrid of speculative fiction, autobiography, punk rock, and much more, including a wonderfully strange exploration of girlhood. I’m filled with awe and glee looking through it.
  • Alienation by Ines Estrada
    • A really freaky sci-fi that feels all too familiar and made me want to throw away my phone, involving virtual reality, environmental degradation, futuristic sex work, relationships, and lack of connection in the year 2054. Told in Ines Estrada’s hand drawn, cute, and terrifyingly visceral style.
  • Fluorescent Mud by Eli Howey
    • A gorgeous and haunting neon nightmare that conveys the numbness of mental illness and a disconnection from the environment and oneself. A challenging and powerful read, even if you take something else away from it.
  • Heartless by Nina Bunjevic
    • Heartless is a series of stories about a lonely Eastern European (Balkan) woman’s life and miseries after being sent to America by her Uncle.  The art is simultaneously grotesque and beautiful, and the detail in the cross-hatching, shading, and stippling is stunning. It is a difficult narrative to read because it is so heartbreaking.
  • Your Black Friend and Other Strangers by Ben Passmore
    • A gloriously illustrated collection of short stories (sci-fi and everyday) covering a wide range of  topics like American politics, race, identity (the author is a biracial person of colour), dysphoria, the prison system, lowbrow art, the punk scene and much more with humour, satire, and care. The pages are vibrant and alive. A call to action in this numbing political climate. And a book that all allies should read.
  • The Strange by Jérôme Ruillier
    • Sad, beautiful, and a must read in these times of widespread anti-immigrant rhetoric, xenophobia, and dehumanization of those deemed to be “other”. The Strange narrates an undocumented immigrant’s journey to a western country,  told through the perspective of those he meets. Drawn in a bold colour palette of red, orange, and green pencils. You will carry this with you for a long time.
  • Rat Time by Keiler Roberts
    • A funny and relatable chronicle of everyday moments and humility, with a quality of drawing that is deadpan and so enjoyable. Rat Time is an autobiographical comic about motherhood, illness, memories, ageing, and how ridiculous we are. A lot of moments that will sneak up on you and make you pause to admire their beauty and clarity.
  • The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
    • A comic memoir by Thi Bui, narrating the story of a Vietnamese family separated by war and trauma, who immigrate to America, and a daughter longing to reconnect with her parents through understanding their past. Intimate with breathtaking illustrations.
  • Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton
    • Monsters, amateur cryptozoology, fairies, sexuality, friendship, identity, and grieving the loss of a parent— these themes and topics are woven seamlessly together in this powerful and viscerally illustrated story. The pencil drawings are deeply moving.
  • The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
    • A mysterious and surreal story about regret and loss, fatherhood, and growing up. My introduction to the work of Jeff Lemire, and still one of my favourite comics of all time.
  • Upgrade Soul by Ezra Claytan Daniels
    • A stunning and eerie sci-fi about the human desire for perfection and youth, regret, relationships, ageing, money and power, race politics, and the dark side of privatized science. One of my favourite reads last year, but it was also very disturbing, in the way that brilliant books often are. I recommend it highly, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to read it again for a long time.
  • Girl Town by Carolyn Nowak
    • A fabulous read filled with magical realism and sci-fi short stories, following women’s friendships and relationships. So charming, insightful, and funny.
  • First Year Healthy by Michael DeForge (and many other books by him)

    • Michael DeForge creates beautifully realized alternative worlds that capture complex personal, social, and political experiences and the absurdity of living in the world. Ornate, delicate and cute aesthetics combine with visceral and grim story undertones and body horror to offer a simultaneous feeling of childhood playfulness and imagining as well as a disturbing feeling caused by the distortion of familiar aesthetics. His art reminds me of the gross ornateness of insects, as weird as that may sound; his more recent work is simplified in terms of line work and use of flat colour. First Year Healthy is a surreal narrative about mental illness and ill-fated relationships, told by a maybe not so reliable narrator, and set in a treacherous climate that reminded me a lot of home in Winnipeg.
  • Heads or Tails by Lilli Carré
    • A collection of whimsical and charmingly illustrated magical short stories, with beautiful colour and detail.
  • Our Wretched Town Hall by Eric Kostiuk Williams
    • I am in such awe of Eric Kostiuk Williams’ ability to capture the emotion and culture of a time and place through the surreal (like Kensington Market and Videofag artspace). There is so much energy in his inking, line work, and colouring. When I first read this comic as a judge for the Doug Wright Awards last year, I jotted down, “It’s like a living beating heart with rainbow ink coursing through the pages.” His fluid morphing narratives are often about queer culture, urban decay, and gentrification in Toronto, Canada.
  • Picking Bones by Keet Geniza
    • Picking Bones is a gentle and emotional narrative that is told through vignettes of the memories and experiences of the author, moving from one place to another and trying to understand their self and needs, through relationships, struggles, and self-reflection. These zines are sweet and sad and carry a message about the importance of self-love and care. An artist I really admire.
  • You Don’t Have to be Afraid of Me by Victor Martins
    • A mini-comic and zine about the author’s relationship with masculinity and why he grew to fear and distrust men, told from a transmasc perspective and based on his own experiences. This is an emotionally powerful and vital read (and funny and very charming!)

Kids/Teens

  • Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will
    • One of the first comics I read that dealt so frankly with mental illness and the fear and stigma associated with it. A realistic depiction of high school life, losing control and having a breakdown, and surviving despite it all. This one meant a lot to me.
  • Jane, The Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt and Elizabeth Arsenault
    •  A large format graphic narrative for all ages about the difficulty of making friends, being kind to yourself, and fitting in. It also deals with body image, body positivity, and societal expectations in a thoughtful way. For me, there is something about the tactile satisfaction of holding large format comics that makes the experience of reading them so enjoyable and immersive.
  • Surviving the City by Tasha Spillett, illustrated by Natasha Donovan
    • A beautifully illustrated story of friendship and navigating growing up Indigenous in Winnipeg, Manitoba, living with the systemic problems and trauma caused by colonialism, including missing and murdered Indigenous women. It carries a tone of resilience and hope. HighWater Press is publishing such great work, and I can’t recommend this graphic novel enough.
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince
    • A hilarious childhood memoir about girlhood, gender roles, identity, awkward and embarrassing moments, and the fallibility of “normal”, that should be required reading for everyone. The drawing style is so endearing and expressive (for comparison, it reminded me a bit of Kate Beaton’s work).
  • Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
    • Maia Kobabe’s wonderful autobiography about growing up and realizing eir self-identity as a gender queer and asexual person, struggling with social and family expectations, and other relatable elements of growing up, like crushes, awkward body changes, and the difficulties of opening up to family members. This book is filled with humour and kindness, and I would recommend it to anyone.
  • Anne Frank’s Diary The Graphic Adaptation by Ari Folman, illustrations by David Polonsky
    • A visually beautiful adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary that I thought did a good job of maintaining the spirit of the original narrator, depicting universal themes of being young, finding out who you are, suffering from depression, craving independence, longing for intimacy, and feeling alienated from those around you. Inviting and heartbreaking. I needed multiple reading sessions to move through the narrative, because it was difficult to take in the violence, fear, and trauma of the time in one sitting. I think with historical fiction and autobiographies that depict trauma, there is an added layer of brutality, immediacy, and realness through the imagery in comics that can cause a more visceral reaction than with similar stories in prose (the graphic adaptation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, Maus by Art Spiegelman…).
  • Fish by Bianca Bagnarelli
    • The artwork and purple and orange tones of this short comic are visually stunning. A grieving child reflects on death and mortality in a quiet little town in the French Riviera in the summer. It narrates a child’s depression, grief, and fear in an honest and piercing way.
  • Navel Gazing by Gyimah Gariba
    • A gentle and surreal story about doppelgangers, identity, and the dangers of too much introspection. Filled with humour and charm.
  • The Only Child by Guojing
    • A stunning narrative. Guojing who is a newcomer explains in her author’s note that this wordless graphic novel grew out of memories of “isolation and loneliness,” from having grown up under China’s one-child policy. A melancholy and emotional fairy tale that offers the comfort of a dream.
  • Anna And Froga: I dunno…what do you want to do? by Anouk Ricard
    • Charming illustrations and lovable goofs. It’s a world to escape to when you need to forget about how messed up the world is and remember the humour of everyday life. Features a deeply flawed  cast of friends, and chronicles their misadventures. You may experience the similar immersive bewitchment of childhood Saturday morning cartoons (at least I did). These comics bring me joy.
  • This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
    • Gorgeous illustrations capturing a queer coming of age narrative and friendship story set in a lakefront community in Ontario over the course of a summer. This has been challenged in schools and libraries for language and adult themes related to sexuality, gender, identity; these books consider the emotional intelligence of YA readers and combat cultural myths about a safe, sheltered and idealized childhood. It includes themes like depression, miscarriages (and other experiences with pregnancy), sexism, and the undercurrents of colonialism.
  • Your Turn, Adrian by Helena Öberg and Kristin Lidström
    • A mostly wordless story about learning disabilities (dyslexia), loneliness, finding a friend, and the power of the imagination to help us keep going during difficult times. I fell in love with the streetscapes, interiors, and use of colour (shifting from black and white to colour) to coincide with the characters emotions and experiences. It is a stunning little comic.
  • The Unsinkable Walker Bean (Volumes 1 and 2) by Aaron Renier
    • A really fun fantasy and adventure story set on the high-seas that has brilliant illustrations and lovable characters. I use this one for YA book therapy.
  • As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
    • Uniquely illustrated with coloured pencils, As the Crow Flies is an intimate coming of age narrative and friendship story that takes place at a Christian summer retreat for teenage girls. Gillman shares the story of Charlie, a queer person of colour, her frustrations with the hypocrisy of her camp’s religious ideology and practices, and her coming to terms with her queer identity.
  • Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez
    • A gorgeously illustrated and very spooky story about friendship and the challenges of creativity, made with vibrant and innovative panel layouts. You wouldn’t think it initially from how beautiful and bright the artwork is, but it is really more of a horror story!

Anthology

Lastly, if you have compiled a list of your favourite comics of the last decade, please link me to it 🙂

One thought on “My favourite comics of the 2010s

  1. Pingback: Why I spent so much time reading comics this past decade | Library Kind

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