The comic book gift is a tried and true method of luring potential comic readers into the fold. Every year, we hear from many flummoxed fans hoping to pick out the perfect grouping of pages for the special people in their lives, whether they be existing, lapsed, or unsuspecting prey. Instead of writing each of them back individually, we’re doing this list of excellent comic book collections and graphic novels, expertly curated for the enjoyment of all who read them. Get yourself to your nearest comic specialty store or just call up Amazon on your browser, but rest assured at the excellence that follows. Some will be obvious for people who’ve hung around the site over the year, and we hope to surprise you with some new things as well. It’s all about balance people.
When You Must Have the Best in Cartooning
by Ramón K. Pérez
Archaia Studios Press – $29.99
This was a tour de force for Ramón K. Pérez, who used it to announce to the comic book industry and beyond, that he was at the peak of his skills as an illustrator of the graphic form. That he was adapting a lost screenplay by Jim Henson was but part of what is fascinating about this book. The pages are lush, powerful, and ever moving. This one belongs on bookshelves for all sorts of reasons, and you’ve only got to pick one. Read the Book of the Month review.
Because It’s On All These Lists
by Chris Ware
Pantheon – $50.00
It’s on those lists for a reason though. There’s not another experience like it in comics, and while Ware could have just doing what he does and coasted, probably forever, he chose to push the limits, and it’s a wonderful experience. It’s also just a compelling and human story, a fact that can get lost in all the adulation. Read the Book of the Month review.
You Want to Know!
Written by Fred Van Lente, Art by Ryan Dunlavey
IDW Publishing – $21.99
If you’re into comics, the only thing more interesting than the books themselves are the stories behind the stories. Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey understood this, and produced this amazing history in comic book form. Meticulously researched, funny, informative, and wonderfully drawn, there’s nothing else like it. Read the Book of the Month review.
Cute, Smart, Fun, and also Cute
by Jeffrey Brown
Chronicle Books – $14.95
This will be one that a lot of you will get from relatives who think they’ve finally found something for you. But it works both ways. For the Star Wars fan, or parent in your life, this one is a cartoonist finding himself in the right place at the right time with the right material. It’s a fun little read of single page gag strips, but it’s also very good. I could look at that cover for days, and it wouldn’t not make me smile every time.
Because Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera
Written by Mark Waid, Art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin
Marvel Comics – $15.99
Right when you think that everything that can be said about a character has been said, Mark Waid breaks Matt Murdock out from Frank Miller’s formidable shadow and does things completely differently. Accompanied by another all new take on visual storytelling from Paolo Rivera as well as Marcos Martin, this is the superhero book that made people who were tired of superhero books sit up and take notice.
And If You Like The Other Team
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Greg Capullo
DC Comics – $24.99
I have never, in my time in this thinkin-bout-comics life of mine, seen a run on Batman which so energized its audience, and I have seen many a creative team come and go. This is the Batman for the modern era, and if you didn’t get on the bus, or you know someone who maybe thought the last flick left a bit to be desired, then you have your gift. Snyder and Capullo are both turning in lasting performances, and you will be creeped out by a mask.
Let’s Get Literary
by Nick Hayes
Viking – $32.00
Stay with me here, but what Nick Hayes has done is update a classic poem into a parable for the modern world. Instead of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Nick Hayes presents a graphic novel for the modern age, which takes place partly in the swirling garbage mass in the Pacific Ocean. But if you’ve got a hankering for an update of Samuel Colerage, or just want a beautiful, thoughtful piece of comics, here you are.
Simply Breathtaking is Reason Enough
by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido
Dark Horse Comics – $19.99
If you were around here when the first Blacksad came out, you heard many praises. Some might say too many, if we’re being honest. But then, if you didn’t buy it, then you didn’t hear enough. Well, here’s another chance, and no you don’t need the previous volume. It’s a crime story in a world populated with anthropomorphic animals who lose none of their viciousness. This is for grownups, we assure you. It’s also as gorgeous a piece of graphic storytelling as you will ever see.
I Didn’t Even Know That Would Work Underwater
by Jeff Lemire
Top Shelf Productions – $19.95
We’ve been following Jeff Lemire’s career for a long time and it’s amazing to see the varied success he’s enjoyed, but this one takes him back to where we originally knew him. It’s a personal story at the core, written and drawn in Lemire unmistakable, expressive style. He’ll jerk your tears, and get some manly work done at the same time.
They Said It Would Never Happen, But It Did
Written by Brian Michael Bendis, Art by Sara Pichelli
Marvel Comics – $24.99
This is the fun stand-alone Spider-Man story, where universes flip, and regular Spider-Man meets Ultimate Spider-Man, and heartstrings get yanked something fierce. There’s lots of death, regret, and drama surrounding the Spider-Man, one at the apex of his career, and one at the start, and it’s done much better than many expected.
This is a Man Without a Lot of Friends
by Derf Backderf
Abrams ComicArts – $17.95
You know you’re curious. You well should be. The mind and story of a killer like Jeffrey Dahmer is fascinating, and the author of this work grew up with him. The thing that makes this work stand out is that it treats the monster as a human, because that’s how he knew him. You also get a look into how it feels to be a normal person who finds out that someone like Dahmer was part of their life. It will chill you and hook you instantly.
This is My Kind of Van Sciver
by Noah Van Sciver
Fantagraphics – $24.99
You think Doris Kearns Goodwin has some kind of monopoly on this, or something? Nope. This is the story of a Lincoln in his twenties, on the verge of losing everything, and prone to depression, and that is all you have to say, Jack. History and humanity!
War? Boy, I Don’t Know
Written by Garth Ennis, Art by Goran Parlov
Marvel Comics – $19.99
This one got a lot of Picks of the Week, and will likely continue to do so. It’s a story about a version of Nick Fury, the ultimate soldier, but at its core, it’s another treatise on man and war, by Garth Ennis, who does these kinds of comics better than anyone. Every issue is a little bit amazing, and a little bit crushing, and if you like Nick Fury or not, it doesn’t matter. If you like war comics, this is smart and cutting, and the quality cannot be overstated.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Fiona Staples
Image Comics – $9.99
It was everything we hoped it would be and more. It’s fun, and huge, and wacky, and heartfelt, and Saga is well and truly the right title. More than any of that, it’s a reminder that there are still comics that can defy and exceed your expectations, and creators who you can almost always count on. There is ground to explore and there is something new to find. Saga is a good comic book, and at $10 for this collection, you’re looking at the start of the next, Y: The Last Man, the comic book that was tailor made to give to non-comic book readers, and say “Look at this! This is what comics can do!” It’s about a man and woman from warring races who find love with each other, and have a long hard road in front of them. It is so good.