Gosh Comics of London has released their Best Of The Year and has allowed Bleeding Cool to share them. And they have a list for adults. We begin with the grown-ups, in alphabetical order – and restricted to books which are stand-alone books or the first volume in a series. All the titles here are available in-store, marked with a vivid green Gosh! Best of 2019 sticker, or there's a link to their online store.
Top Twenty Adult Comics of 2019
ANGOLA JANGA HC
Writer / Artist: Marcelo D'salete
Eisner-nominated Brazilian artist D'salete returns, with Fantagraphics publishing his massive 2017 tome in a lovely hardcover edition. Exhaustively researched and developed for 11 years, this is the much-overlooked story of Angola Janga, a Brazilian community of escaped slaves that fought fiercely for their independence for over 100 years. From its formation in the late 16th Century until its brutal suppression in 1694, D'salete chronicles the conflicts from without and within, never losing sight of the stories of the fugitive slaves who found a home there. It's a powerful work, and is absolutely beautiful to boot.
ARE YOU LISTENING GN
Writer / Artist: Tillie Walden
Publisher: First Second
Tillie Walden makes the Gosh! Best Of list for the third year in a row (!!) with Are You Listening, a powerful and slightly fantastical story of grief, friendship and the trauma of assault. Following two women, Bea and Lou, who run into one another while both on the run from something greater, their journey becomes complicated by the appearance of a magical cat whom the women vow to return to its owner. As they get deeper into their own pasts, and further away from their homes, Bea and Lou become further entangled in one another, and less in the real world. Walden's art is – as always – breathtaking, as she draws even a car ride so beautifully that it is difficult to tell where the "real world" ends and the magic begins.
BAD GATEWAY HC MEGG & MOGG
Writer / Artist: Simon Hanselmann
Following on from the dramatic and hilarious events of Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam, Simon Hanselmann's previous best-seller, Megg & Mogg are Back and bigger than ever, literally, this book is a monster, a lustrous oversized hardcover, all the better for showcasing Hanselmann's cartooning chops. Bad Gateway feels like Hanselmann's going all out; giving us deeper character development, more depressing, yet relatable backstory and tragi-comic events than ever before. Hanselmann is hitting his stride and it's clear his over-arching narrative is now becoming satisfyingly cohesive. This is the Megg & Mogg story he's been building towards and not to be missed for fans of the series.
CATS OF THE LOUVRE HC
Writer / Artist: Taiyo Matsumoto
Any new release from Matsumoto goes straight to the top of our reading list, and as you might expect from this master mangaka this book quickly transcends what appears to be a cutesie central concept: the nocturnal wanderings of a group of cats living in the attic of the Louvre. Matsumoto leans heavily into the artistic language of French cinema as we follow the lives of cats and humans intertwining with the artworks of the Louvre. Heavy themes abound: loss, grief, art, family and survival. A graphic novel in the truest sense of the word, packaged into a stunning hardcover edition.
DRIFTING CLASSROOM HC VOL 01
Writer / Artist: Kazuo Umezz
Not technically a new book, having originally been released in 1972, but this beautiful new hardcover release from Viz of the Umezz (sometimes Umezu) manga classic is the perfect excuse to check out one of the great horror comics, complete with a great new translation. The set-up? A middle-grade school is mysteriously transported into a wasteland of ash and must survive against the monsters without and, as the societal norms break down, the monsters within. If you've never read Umezu before, he is considered the grand master of Japanese horror comics, an essential influence on the likes of Junji Ito, and this is one of his masterpieces. Unflinching, blackly comedic and brimming with alarming amounts of energy as horrible things happen to unlikeable children and their teachers, it's a must read whether you're familiar with manga or not.
GOOD TALK HC
Writer / Artist: Mira Jacob
An affecting, honest examination of race and identity in America told largely through conversations between Jacob and her six-year old son and the self-reflection that comes from those discussions. A curious mix of often quite static, repetitive art superimposed onto photographs, the resultant combination with the honest, sometimes uncomfortable and often very funny dialogue creates a unique graphic memoir. Taking her lead from her viral Buzzfeed piece "37 Difficult Questions From My Mixed Race Son", Jacob has created a book which speaks explicitly to the fractious times we live in, as relevant internationally as it is within the USA. A lovely book that caught us unawares!
THE HARD TOMORROW HC
Writer / Artist: Eleanor Davis
Eleanor Davis' The Hard Tomorrow is an incredible and timely portrait of modern life that feels almost apocalyptic. Hannah works as a carer for the elderly while living in a caravan her partner Johnny, as they face the daunting task of building a house together. As Hannah attempts to get pregnant and Johnny makes no progress on the home, they find themselves drifting further apart. It doesn't help that everyone around them is preoccupied with the question of survival – from the left-wing anti-violence society Hannah is a part of, to the militant right-wing gunman Johnny befriends. Davis captures the feeling of a world on the cusp of change, asking how one can deal with the guilt of prioritising their own desires within a society that is falling apart. This is a book you'll think about for days after reading.
IN WAVES GN
Writer / Artist: AJ Dungo
A work of subtle, heartbreaking beauty by Dungo as he relates the story of his late partner, her battle with cancer, and the love for surfing that they shared together. The book interweaves the history of two great surfers with his remembrances of his partner, the passion they shared for the sport and its role in dealing with the weight of struggle and, ultimately, grief. It's all told with a sparse line and muted colours which allow the images to flow smoothly, in keeping with the subject matter. A beautiful book that lingers long after it finishes.
LITTLE BIRD HC
Writer: Darcy Van Poelgeest
Artist: Ian Bertram
Written by award-winning writer and director Von Poelgeest, with art by the always amazing Ian Bertram (whose House of Penance was one of our best of 2017). Their collaboration is set in a twisted future where a theocratic American Empire rules with an iron fist from the city of New Vatican, and a young girl grows up as part of a Canadian resistance movement led by her mother. The world is one filled with monsters and grotesqueries, a brutal, weird world, with flourishes of beauty and ultraviolence amid a narrative that actually has something to say in the most visually arresting manner possible.
MAGGY GARRISSON GN
Writer: Lewis Trondheim
Artist: Stéphane Oiry
Now here's a curiousity: a very London tale created by two Frenchmen. But it all works very well, probably due in no small part to the efforts of translator Emma Wilson. Collecting all 3 volumes of the French series, Maggy is a character you can really sink your teeth into. Originally hired as the secretary of a down-at-hell private investigator, she's soon forced into taking cases into her own hands, tackling them in her own endearingly sardonic way. Oiry does a great job of evoking a London that brims with authenticity: not one of Tower Bridge and Big Ben, but rather run down borough high streets and cramped, decaying architecture. An excellent gift for non-comics readers!
MISTER MIRACLE TP
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Collecting all 12 issues of Tom King & Mitch Gerad's award-winning mini-series in their entirety, this book represents one of the most ground-breaking superhero tales we've seen in many years. Experimental storytelling in 9-panel grids has never been so enthralling, and King's idiosyncratic take on Scott Free, Big Barda and the entire Jack Kirby-created Fourth World pantheon is every bit as bold and engaging as his Vision mini-series. Mitch Gerad certainly does his share of the heavy lifting too, with layered, rich art. It's certainly one that people are going to be talking about for some time to come.
NANCY BY OLIVIA JAIMES HC
Writer / Artist: Olivia Jaimes
Publisher: Andrews McMeel
We normally shy away from including strip collections in this list. Problem is, this collection of the first nine months of Olivia Jaimes' take on the classic John Stanley character is just SO DAMN GOOD. Not only are they funny, wry, contemporary gag strips, but they also play with the form in a way that is simply astounding given the .limitations of the format. Whip-smart comics that aren't afraid to get a post-modern if the situation (or sometimes seemingly the deadline) demands it. Jaimes has crafted not only one of our favourite comics of the year, but quite possibly one of the best syndicated strips since Calvin & Hobbes ended.
OUTER DARKNESS TP VOL 01
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Afu Chan
A wonderfully loopy horror space opera from the writer of Chew and the artist of Immortal Iron Fists; kind of Star Trek meets Lovecraft in a future where the supernatural and the scientific exist uncomfortably beside one another. There are on-board exorcists, ghost-infested areas of deep space and starship engines powered by chained Aztec gods. Join disgraced Captain Joshua Rigg and the crew of the Charon as they journey deep into the outer darkness on a mission that might, just might, lead to a redemption of sorts. An absolute ton of fun.
PARALLEL LIVES SC
Writer / Artist: Olivier Schrauwen
Schrauwen is one of the greatest living cartoonists and Parrallel Lives is a testament to this. Conceptually challenging, Parallel Lives vigorously explores the potential of the medium through immaculate line work, a safari of colour and a pleasing mastery of form. A true odyssey, the reader meets a selection of Scrauwens future descendents existing within six short, utterly relatable yet unapologetically high concept, science fiction vistas. Examining cultural sexual norms, the limitless potential of technology and the very nature of what it is to be human, Parallel Lives is a complete triumph.
THE RIVER AT NIGHT HC
Writer / Artist: Kevin Huizenga
The passage of time is one of the great tricks of cartooning. Controlling the pace and passage of time in a medium where the artist ultimately relinquishes control of such things to the reader is a masterful skill, with only a few really accomplished practitioners. Confident, then, is the cartoonist who actively engages with the subject as Huizenga does here, and exciting too that he actually succeeds. The River at Night is a meditation on time, a series of vignettes as author stand-in Glenn Ganges struggles with insomnia. His mind wanders to various fancies, and so too does the storytelling, engaging in the kind of formalist experimentation that lets us see things we've never (or rarely) seen done effectively before. A masterclass in the craft that also acts as a fascinating, not to mention entertaining, philosophical piece.
RUSTY BROWN HC
Writer / Artist: Chris Ware
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
The long-awaited new book from one of the greatest storytellers in comic could certainly be said to be a bit of an event. Not technically a totally new work, collecting and expanding on work from recent volumes of Acme Novelty Library, it nonetheless finds new life as a cohesive whole: a meditation on the human condition told through the stories of six characters in the American Midwest. As you might expect from a Ware book, it's dense, boldly formalist (except when he doesn't want it to be), darkly humourous and thoroughly miserable (in a good way). Undoubtedly one of the must-reads of the year.
SEASONAL SHIFT SC
Writer / Artist: Lala Albert
Publisher: Breakdown Press
Seasonal Shift collects a selection of comics by Lala Albert, made between 2013 and 2019. Ethereal, unsettling and intimate, these genre-hopping examinations of identity and nature demonstrate that Albert is a master of the formally-inventive contemporary comic. Easily one of the most exciting comics you'll read this year. We've been looking forward to this one for a while and it's met our very high expectations. If you're unfamiliar with Lala's work, treat yourself.
SILVER SURFER BLACK SC
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Tradd Moore & Dave Stewart
Donny Cates turns in some of the best writing of his career to date with the Silver Surfer's internal monologue carrying the narrative without deteriorating into dull exposition. Also, commendably, he has taken a story that feeds directly from and into the narratives of his runs on Venom, Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor but exists as a satisfying story in its own right, filled with cosmic terror and wonder. And speaking of cosmic wonder, Tradd Moore's art on this book! along with Dave Stewart's incredible colours) make it flat out one of the most beautiful Marvel books we've ever seen, filled with psychedelic, eye-bending imagery. We read it in single issues this year, but, smartly, Marvel have decided to release it in an oversized "treasury" format to really showcase the work, and we can't wait to see it (it releases in mid-December, a month from the writing of this).
THESE SAVAGE SHORES TP
Writer: Ram V
Artist: Sumit Kumar
A slice of myth, horror and colonialism from two increasingly in-demand creators. When a disgraced vampire aristocrat is exiled to India from England aboard a vessel of the vampire-controlled East India Company, he expects easy pickings. What he discovers is a world with its own ancient monsters, and they are not happy he's there. It's smart stuff, with plenty to say about the world of the time (and the world nearly 250 years later) while still spinning an engaging horror tale. We liked this one so much, in fact, that we have an exclusive bookplate edition while stocks last.
THIS WOMAN'S WORK GN
Writer / Artist: Julie Delporte
Julie Delporte's This Woman's Work is a masterpiece. Brought to life in stunning coloured pencil sketches, Delporte ponders the nature of womanhood and of art, interweaving deeply personal anecdotes with wider feminist and literary theory. Delporte writes so sparsely and so naturally that reading it feels almost like breathing, but her work is deep, considered and intellectual in a way that is bound to both resonant and astound. The resentment of womanhood is central to her thesis, and through this lens she examines art, the media and her own past, building up a repertoire of the ways her own femininity has been used against her. Delporte cannot come to a conclusion on how to fix this, but This Woman's Work is a powerful meditation on the complexities of being both artist and woman – and how to love the incompatibility of being both.
Top Ten Kids Comics of 2019
CLAIRE: JUSTICE NINJA SC VOL 01
Writer: Joe Brady & Kate Ashwin
Artist: Kate Ashwin
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Our pick of the always-excellent Phoenix Comic collections this year is this righter of wrongs. Yes, with the help of her hapless sidekick Nigel, Claire uses her ninja skills to dispense justice to wrongdoers of the decidedly familiar kind. Litterers, vandals and bullies are her targets, and even when everything doesn't quite go to plan, her determination to do what's right gets her through in the end. It's a lovely, positive book about activism in the community, with a POC lead who is smart, resourceful and courageous. What better role model could a young girl (or boy for that matter) need? Oh, and did we mention that it's funny too?
Writer / Artist: Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier is the queen of kids comics for a reason. Her autobiographical comics recount the highs and lows of middle school pitch perfectly. In Guts, Raina deals with a topic perhaps less familiar to most: extreme anxiety based around nausea. Raina cannot handle the thought of throwing up, and any potential trigger – from certain foods to sibling's illness – sends Raina's tummy into overdrive. Despite the unconventional topic, Telgemeier handles this with the sensitivity and humour common in all her work. In particular, scenes in which young Raina speaks with a therapist are depicted with care and expertise – a comfort to children who may experience similar feelings of anxiety, and an empathetic read for those who do not. Highly readable, sprinkled with the every day drama of school and friendships, Guts is another winner from Telgemeier.
HEARTSTOPPER SC VOL 01
Writer / Artist: Alice Oseman
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Originally a web-comic spin-off of Oseman's Young Adult novel Solitaire, Heartstopper has taken on a life of its own. Oseman both writes and draws this highly successful series, depicting the school romance of openly gay Charlie, and rugby player Nick. While not drama free, Heartstopper doesn't rely on cliché, and the struggles of the young couple feel grounded and current, as their boy-meets-boy narrative is filled with healthy conversations about sexuality, anxiety, and coming out. At its heart, Heartstopper is a sweet story that captures the awkwardness and the excitement of a first love. This first volume follows Nick and Charlie from first meeting to first kiss, and is all set to get you hooked.
LAURA DEAN KEEPS BREAKING UP WITH ME GN
Writer: Mariko Tamaki
Artist: Rosemary Valero-O'Connell
Publisher: First Second
As far as she's concerned, Freddy has only one problem: Laura Dean keeps breaking up with her. The uber-popular Laura is liable to drop Freddy at a moment's notice, and Freddy's always willing to take her back. But, Freddy's so willing to go to any lengths to make Laura happy that she doesn't realise the damage she's doing to everyone else around her, that is, until a medium tells her to break up with Laura Dean once and for all. A thoughtful and necessary depiction of an unhealthy relationship, Freddy must learn to value those in her life who value her – a brilliant lesson for any teen (or adult!). Valeria-O'Connell's art is perfectly suited to this style, as black and white with bright pops of pink bring their world to life. Tamaki is also on top form, as the diverse and interesting cast feel motivated and fully rounded. Laura Dean is not a book you'll forget in a hurry.
THE LEGEND OF MARIPOSA: THE DEMON GAUNTLET GN
Writer / Artist: James Lawrence
Publisher: James Lawrence
Something a little off the beaten track here as we plump for James Lawrence's webcomic, Kickstartered into a lovely paperback collection. We've always loved the Mariposa minicomics, following the monster-fighting adventures of young female luchadora in a fantasy land inspired by the mythology of Mexican wrestling, so to get this big 200 page helping is a real treat. Thrill, cheer and laugh as La Mariposa undertakes the infamous Demon Gauntlet at the behest of legendary luchadores The Sons of Justice (who actually just wanted to get rid of her). Filled with brightly coloured beasties and a young masked woman kicking monster butt, all drawn in Lawrences lovely animation-influenced style, this thing is a cartoon waiting to happen. But in the meantime, no need to wait for this excellent book!
THE OKAY WITCH GN
Writer / Artist: Emma Steinkellner
Publisher: Aladdin Books
Moth has always wanted to be a witch, so when she discovers she is one, everything changes for her. Enter: a new best friend, a talking cat, and powers beyond her control. Unfortunately, her mother (a witch herself!) has a strict no-magic rule, so Moth is left to test out her magic on her own and in secret, and may accidentally unlock a hidden portal in the process. Steinkellner's graphic novel debut is a stunner, hilarious in parts and heart-warming in others. Moth is an instantly loveable and relatable protagonist, helped by Steinkellner's uncanny ability to mimic the outrageous expressions of a 13-year-old. As the world of witches becomes more and more complex throughout the story, one can only hope for more adventures with Moth and her family.
PILU OF THE WOODS GN
Writer / Artist: Mai K. Nguyen
Publisher: Oni Press
Willow is angry even when she doesn't mean to be: angry at her school, her older sister, her mother. The only time Willow feels at peace is in the woods, so it seems only natural for her to run away. Once there she encounters a forest spirit called Pilu, whose anger at her mother is all too familiar to Willow. Determined to return the lost Pilu to her home, the two embark on a journey to the magnolia grove Willow's mother loved and in which Pilu lives. A beautiful and magical exploration of feeling, Nguyen explores grief, friendship and forgiveness through the bond between these two outcasts. The gorgeous natural settings allow for Nguyen's art to shine, as Willow's emotions become literally expressed as monsters she must learn to fight and control. An important and heart-warming read for kids, which teaches the importance of allowing yourself to listen to your emotions.
THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND NEW FAIRY TALES HC
Writer: Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Artist: Simini Blocker
Publisher: First Second
Not often that you get a new fairy tale, so a treat indeed to get the four stories that fill this volume, all told with a verve and humour that makes them feel like they've always been around. Beautifully illustrated by Blocker, stories "Hop, Hop, Wish", "The Sorcerers New Pet", "Ogreish Art", and of course "The Singing Rock" are fairy tales in the classic moral mode, filled with familiar folklorish tropes but with their own wry twist. They're also marvelous beginner comics for younger readers, with simple, clear storytelling and appealing characters that should appeal to a broad range of kids.
Writer / Artist: Jen Wang
Publisher: First Second
Jen Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker made our Best Of 2018 list, and her 2019 release just had to be included. Completely different in style and tone, Wang moves away from the period setting of Prince, to focus on the lives of middle-schooler Christine and new-girl-in-town Moon. The unlikely friendship formed between the two girls bridges class and convention, as Moon brings the shy Christine out of her shell. Wang captures the feeling of finding a kindred spirit, as the two girls go from awkward strangers to true confidants who share their darkest secrets – including the fact the Moon is visited by celestial beings. Wang's art is expressive and distinct, as her characters truly feel as if they could dance off the page. Of course, not all is at it seems, and Moon's 'stargazing' brings an unexpected twist that threatens the girls' bond.
WITCH HAT ATELIER VOL 01
Writer / Artist: Kamome Shirahama
It doesn't get much more Miyazaki-inspired than this smash hit manga, with it's young female protagonist undertaking a journey of self-discovery and learning to believe in herself. But to dismiss it as a lazy clone would be doing it a disservice, as the series has a charm and quality of craft that really elevates it above most imitators. Coco is a young girl born into a world of magic and her only wish is to become a witch, but born without the necessary powers that path is deemed to be cut off from her. Trouble is, she's not one to take no for an answer. With a vibrant world underpinned by a fascinating magic system, all illustrated beautifully by Shirahama (and we cannot emphasize enough how gorgeous this book looks), this is a perfect introduction to the world of manga for younger readers.