For every savvy comics fan there's a reader who loved "Persepolis" or "Fun Home" but feels lost in the comics section of his or her local bookstore. This selection of 10 great "graphic novels" (an unfortunate term, since so many of the best works in the genre are nonfiction) published since the beginning of the year is for the occasional comics reader, a tip sheet on some of the best new work in the field.
With that in mind, these are books with reasonably complete narratives and a minimum of the following:
1. Superheroes: True, some die-hard fans will never tire of this motif, but for the rest of us the Burden of Specialness is like gum with all the flavor chewed out.
2. Scene after scene of characters in their mid-20s sitting around in cafes kvetching about their love lives.
3. Three dozen identical panels in which the schlubby protagonist stares off into the middle distance, followed by one nearly identical one in which he sighs.
4. Darkness, oh such very dark darkness. This quality is probably a lot more appealing if you live with one of those chirpy moms who's always urging you to think positive.
Some of these books are sheer eye candy. Others are simply drawn yet emotionally and intellectually complex. (Nevertheless, it's astonishing how much a gifted artist can convey with what at first may seem like a childish scrawl.) It's an intriguingly international bunch, too, by artists hailing from Japan, Brazil, France and Canada, as well as the U.S., who have chosen subjects that are even wider-ranging. Physics, prostitution, arctic exploration, war, slavery, fate and the unfathomable mystery of ordinary city streets are only a few of the themes they tackle. Prepare to be dazzled.