I do not read many graphic novels/comic books, but, once in awhile, I love reading thought-provoking or emotional graphic novels that introduce me to another culture, way of seeing the world, an interesting central character or to a mystery to consider and possibly solve. Below are ten comic books that I enjoyed reading in recent years (they are in no particular order).
I. Daytripper [2010/2011] by Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon
The creators of this graphic novel are twin brothers from Brazil who were ambitious enough to make their graphic novel about life and what it means to live, hope, love and have no regrets in life. The opposite of this is to despair and not be brave enough to follow one’s dreams. The creators’ slightly transcendental journey centres on one obituary writer in Sao Paulo who learns his life lessons by experiencing his life in reverse or sometimes jumping through his life events. Emotional, with deep and important messages, Daytripper is a very memorable book that stays with you.
II. V for Vendetta [1982 – 1989] by Alan Moore & David Lloyd
I am not indifferent to the vision of Alan Moore, a British comic writer. His graphic novels are often very insightful and thought-provoking, grappling with interesting issues (such as personal revenge and redemption), and introducing intricate, often misunderstood and complex characters. They also provide for great film adaptations. V for Vendetta may now be better known as the 2005 film, but, in my opinion, the graphic novel has a subtler and more realistic vision, as well as more coherent picture in place, as it introduces a dystopian setting that can rival Orwell’s 1984 and – V, a mysterious character whose extreme methods at doing away with the unfair regime would push our sympathies for him and his cause to the very limit.
III. Persepolis [2000/2004] by Marjane Satrapi
This graphic autobiography for adults is about one girl’s growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, as well as her then becoming an adult in a complicated social and political climate. This coming-of-age account can also be considered as a political and social statement in itself, as the author, while detailing the life in a war-torn country, touches on many issues in her narrative, from the rights of women and the power of religion, to the east vs. west culture clashes. I also highly recommend the animated film Persepolis  based on this novel.
IV. They Called Us Enemy  by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott & Harmony Becker
This is another graphic memoir that centres around George Takei’s childhood when he and his family was imprisoned within American internment (“relocation”) camps during the World War II. US-born George Takei is now a successful actor and activist, and the story tells of his life as a child behind the barbed wire in one climate that promoted and encouraged racism during the last years of the World War II. The black-and-white tale is heart-breaking, but it is also an important one to tell not least because this is a very overlooked topic in American history.
V. Batman: The Killing Joke  by Alan Moore & Brian Bolland
From all male superheroes out there, Batman is probably my favourite (followed by Spider-Man). Batman’s enemy The Joker (first created in 1940) is deranged, two-faced and completely unpredictable in his methods. The Killing Joke, loosely based on the comic book story arc The Man Behind the Red Hood! , tells how the Joker became a psychopathic being that he is, and, in this comic, we get the glimpse inside his twisted mind. Shocking to disbelief, The Killing Joke is short, but very well-made comic book that also tries to delve into the psychology of the characters.
VI. Brusel [1992/2001] by François Schuiten & Benoît Peeters
Les Cites Obscures universe is a marvellous foray into the fantastic and the unknown. In each comic, there is this unparalleled sense of wonder and exploration as they show each fantastic city modelled on a real one. In Brusel, the city is an alternative Brussels, and the author satirises in the story the capital’s careless, inconsiderate and non-stop construction movemenet (bruxellisation), as it makes brainy observations on progress vs. tradition and on the greed and ambition of a city government.
VII. The Diary of Anne Frank  by Ari Folman & David Polonsky
This is not an independent comic book, but rather a graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl  (Anne Frank was a Dutch girl who wrote about her and her family experience of hiding from the Nazis in occupied Holland). I thought Frank’s story became even more emotional (if that is possible) with vivid images. Wonderful illustrations in the graphic novel let us step into the mind of one courageous, ambitious and clever girl, and we even see how she sees her future unfolding (her career of a writer), as she battles with the realisation that no child should ever have to confront.
VIII. Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salt Sea [1967 – 1969/1991] by Hugo Pratt
The personality of Corto Maltese, a Valletta-born sailor, as well as the great sense of adventure, are probably the best things in the series. Unlike other comic books, where the central hero is positively good and fights for the rights of others, Corto is hard to pin down. He is a loyal friend who does not like injustice being committed, but, at the same time, is rather ambiguous, at times hypocritical and is on friendly terms with people who commit evil. Corto is essentially a war profiteer, and, in this particular comic, gets entangled into the events happening in the Pacific on the eve of the World War I. Two rich children become pawns in a deadly game for power and riches. Both lyrical and brainy, this Italian-language import will be a delightful read for those who love sea adventures.
IX. From Hell [1989 – 1998/1999] by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell
This comic book speculates on the identity and motives of the most famous British serial killer – Jack the Ripper, who terrorised East London in the late nineteenth century. Though the book is based on the real murders, it also fictionalises events and manners of killing, and draws unbelievable conclusions. It is an interesting read, and the 2001 film, loosely based on the novel and starring Johnny Depp, is also worth watching for those interested in this macabre history.
X. The Blue Lotus [1934 – 1935/1936] by Hergé
The Adventures of Tintin comic series did not age well, and, in my previous article, I already discussed the racism, stereotypes and cultural superiority that many of the stories transmit. However, some of them are still fun adventures to read about, and The Blue Lotus is one of those more structured stories. Here, Tintin is in China, and, together with his friend Chang, eventually helps to dismantle the network of corruption.
Have you read any of the comics above? What do you think of them? Do you read graphic novels in general, and, if yes, what is your favourite?