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The most stunning visual storytelling of the year, from memoirs to inventive, surrealist narrative fiction.

Time Zone J
Men I Trust

Time Zone J, by Julie Doucet (Drawn & Quarterly)

In her first work of graphic memoir in almost two decades, Doucet looks back to the late 1980s, when she began her legendary Dirty Plotte comics, to revisit the story of a long-distance tryst. Doucet recreates the affair’s intensity through furious feats of drawing, each page crammed full of allusive imagery.

Men I Trust, by Tommi Parrish (Fantagraphics)

Sasha, depressed after moving back in with her parents, flings herself at Eliza, a struggling single mom in recovery, after connecting with her poetry. As this imbalanced relationship lurches into strange territory – including an assignation with a toxic TV handyman – Parrish’s cartooning remains sure-footed, the lusciously painted pages anchored by hulking bodies.

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The Projector and Elephant, by Martin Vaughn-James (New York Review Comics)

In 1970s Toronto, Martin Vaughn-James was busy inventing the idea of the “graphic novel,” before such a thing really existed. His first two books, “rediscovered” in this handsome edition, remain astonishing innovations. Vaughn-James takes the jejune language of cartooning – funny animals, advertising art – and torques it into the realm of the surreal.

One Beautiful Spring Day
Talk to my Back

One Beautiful Spring Day, by Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)

For decades, visionary cartoonist Jim Woodring has been telling dreamlike, pantomime stories featuring Frank – a kind of platonic ideal of a comic strip critter, an amoral Goofy or cartoon Candide. Collecting and expanding the last three Frank books, here is Woodring’s epic – part odyssey, part inferno, and, weirdly, part romance.

Talk to My Back, by Yamada Murasaki, translated by Ryan Holmberg (Drawn & Quarterly)

Serialized in 1980s Japan, Yamada’s hushed vignettes about Chiharu’s home life – raising her daughters, enduring her husband’s casual disrespect, finding independence through work of her own – stood out in a male-oriented publishing landscape. Their measured, patient pace, and their steady attention to domestic detail, continue to be rare in comics today.


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