Comics / Spotlight

Binnies 2011: Best Original Graphic Novel

By Zak Edwards
January 2, 2012 - 19:23

As graphic novels become more acceptable in mainstream reading communities, the graphic novel, large comics of considerable length, also seem to be getting published at a greater rate on more diverse topics.  2011 saw a large number of both new and highly anticipated graphic novels hit the stands.  Here are the top picks for us writers here at the Bin.  Remember, more Binnies Awards are just a click away on your right.

Troy-Jeffrey Allen: Ahmed & Aaron

In the year that brought us the death of Osama bin Laden (only a week after the release of this graphic novel) and the withdrawal of American Troops from Afghanistan, Aaron and Ahmed could almost feel like a closing commentary on the War on Terror.  Despite being more or less on board with the military's methods of torture at "Gitmo," military therapist Aaron opts to use his clinical theory of "romance" (with the help of hormone injections) to gain the trust of Ahmed, a prisoner rumored to be Osama bin Laden's chauffeur. Ahmed’s principles seem equally convincing when put up against Aaron’s conflict and outrage. So much in fact, that Aaron's manipulation back fires on him. Willfully dropping him right into the lion's den of terrorist brainwashing.  Jay Cantor and James Romberger tell a story so encompassing that it is able to punctuate tragedy with dark humor, paranoia with unpredictability, and provide an alternative perspective without alienating. All this provides the reader with a very strong argument. One that broadly states that -whether it be a war of politics or a war of faith - the recruitment process all boils down to courting.

Leroy Douresseaux: Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story (DC/Vertigo)

Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath are close to me and not just because members of my immediate family, assorted relatives, and friends were affected.  It is also because some bad things happened in the aftermath that remain largely in the shadows – until Dark Rain.  In a single graphic novel, author Mat Johnson encapsulates everything that went wrong and those who took advantage of it – from politicians and institutions to civilians and criminals.  I also think that Dark Rain epitomizes the sometimes brave, sometimes unique, and sometimes daring work that Vertigo publishes.

Dan Horn and Andy Frisk: Marzi: a Memoir (DC/Vertigo)

Marzi A Memoir, illustrated by Belgian artist Sylvain Savoia, is Marzena Sowa's graphical autobiography of her childhood in Poland in the 1980s, behind the Iron Curtain. Marzi chronicles economic and social repression within the Eastern Bloc, drawing parallels between a child's relegation to powerlessness in society and a society's relegation to powerlessness within authoritarianism. Reminiscent of texts like Sandra Cisneros' The House on Mango Street, Sowa's Marzi provides a knee-high autoethnographic narrative, surprisingly rich in its scope and fascinating in its astute, yet subtle, understanding and cross-examination of the interactions between dominant and marginalized cultures. Whether portraying Marzi and her friends gorging themselves on American toothpaste as if it's delicious custard, or are reflecting on the dynamic between a peaceful revolution and the violent force used by Big Brother to quash it, Sowa's chronicle elucidates a facet of European history which is especially poignant in contemporary America.

Zak Edwards: Habibi (Pantheon)

Well, this was a no-brainer for me.  Craig Thompson’s much-anticipated and long-awaited Habibi was easily one of the best reads, novel or otherwise, I experienced this year.  Beautifully illustrated and poignant while remaining emotionally complex and suspenseful, Habibi is an achievement for a man who already has one of the most celebrated graphic novels of all time.  Yes, it’s relationship to the East, especially if one is going to take into account Edward Said’s Orientalism, is troubling, as is his treatment of sex, but the book remains gorgeously illustrated, intimate, and certainly earning a place among the best the medium has to offer.

Hervé St-Louis: Homeland Directive (Top Shelf Productions)

I know it was originally a mini-series published as a comic book, but the Homeland Directive deserves the spot. It's good conspiracy and was far more interesting than the movie Contagion which shared some of the same vibes.

Remember, more Binnie Awards await, just simply click on any of the links in the top right of this very article!

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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