The 2013 Eisner Awards: One More Look Back at Great Graphic Novels of 2012

Courtesy of Schocken
Courtesy of Schocken
Art from Leela Corman's Unterzakhn

Yeah, okay, back in February, I swore I was moving on to the graphic novels of 2013, running through the previous year's must-read list double-time. But since the 2013 Eisner Award Nominees were announced last month, I had to make a U-turn. I thought I'd done a good job reading (and writing about) the best of 2012, but I'd only skimmed about a quarter of the cream of the crop.

This month and next, I'll catch us up on two categories of nominees for the Eisners (a.k.a. "the Oscars of comics") so that we can formulate our deeply held opinions of who's deserving by the time the awards are announced at San Diego Comicon on July 19.

This month: Best Graphic Album -- New. And the nominees are ...

See also: Nicole Georges' Graphic Novel Calling Dr. Laura Is Charming and Disarming Cynthia Clark Harvey's List of Graphic Novel Must-Reads (Before You Check Out This Year's Bestsellers)

Courtesy of Pantheon
Courtesy of Pantheon
Art from Chris Ware's Building Stories

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Building Stories, by Chris Ware (Pantheon) This must be why, in their wisdom, the Eisner award folks called the category "Album," because to call this multi-format piece of art a "graphic novel" is an even less appropriate handle than when applied to memoir, non-fiction, and short stories. I wrote about this incredible "book" (well, that label is inaccurate, too) in November and you owe yourself a look at this amazing work if you love printed things and boxed things and art and comics. It's in a category of its own (as evidenced by its nomination in five separate categories, covering all the bases).

Goliath, by Tom Gauld (Drawn & Quarterly) I admit, I never would have found this book if it hadn't been for the Eisner nomination. And I would have missed something special. It's a retelling of the story of Goliath (yes, that Old Testament bogeyman) with great spareness, tenderness, humor, and subversion. Sure, you know how it's all going to end, but the Goliath of Gauld's book has you rooting for an alternative finish. I'll be revisiting this one soon. 

Art from Charles Burns' The Hive
Art from Charles Burns' The Hive
Courtesy of Pantheon

The Hive, by Charles Burns (Pantheon) Charles Burns' fans were delirious when he published his first full length work in color, 2010's X-ed Out. The Hive is the second installment of the trilogy X-ed Out kicked off that I have not yet read, but I didn't feel at a loss jumping in part way downstream. The story is hallucinatory and fragmented, but oddly mesmerizing, so when all three are in print, I'm sure readers will enjoy poring over the complete set for connections and clues. Just don't read it before bed if you're susceptible to creepy dreams.

Unterzakhn, by Leela Corman (Schocken) Unterzakhn is Yiddish for "underthings" and the title of a black and white graphic novel about twin sisters in turn of the (20th) century New York. It's rich, deeply female story about life and death, filled with great dialogue (I know a lot more Yiddish now than I did before) and lovely drawings. This has nothing to do with the Eisner's, but I have to add that I read in background info that author/artist Corman is also a professional belly dancer. Curse these multi-talented folks and their show-offy brinksmanship!

You'll Never Know, Book 3: A Soldier's Heart, by C. Tyler (Fantagraphics) You'll Never Know... was nominated in four Eisner categories, which means I'll also be covering it in next month's column when I look at the Best Reality-Based Work. This series and this book in particular to me represent the very best of the genre. It's a very personal, intimate telling of a personal, intimate story all of which elevates to something more universal. The hand-crafting of each line, letter and page makes it a deep joy to read and re-read. If you missed it, I interviewed the author/artist C. Tyler in October.

Once again, I'm caught up in a never-ending cycle of catch-up reading: there's Tom Gauld's other work, X-ed Out, and Leela Corman's previous book Subway Series. And the books I want to read for next month's column, including The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song which has a bonus CD of rare Carter Family music. An embarrassment of riches, that what's my reading list is.

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