Comic Book Petting Zoo: The Best Graphic Novels of 2013
The Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2013
for Kids, Teens, and Adults
Selected and Annotated by Jack Baur and Amanda Jacobs Foust
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Baltazar, Art (auth. and illus.) and Franco (auth. and illus.). Superman Family Adventures, vol. 1.
DC Comics, 2013. 128p. 978-1401240509.
An incredibly lighthearted take on Superman and his compatriots Superboy, Supergirl, and Krypto
the Superdog! With goofy plots, punny gags, and bright, clear art, this book is a perfect antidote to
the unrelenting grimness of the recent “Man of Steel” movie. Appropriate for readers of all ages.
Castellucci, Cecil (auth.) and Sara Varon (illus.). Odd Duck. First Second. 2013. 96p. 9781596435575.
This sweet and charming tale of kindred spirits is a rare combination of picture book, early reader
and comic, which clearly benefits from Castellucci and Varon previous comic outings. With
whimsical artwork in soothing pastel palettes, it is sure to be a repeat favorite at bedtime, while
also tackling such vital early childhood topics as first impressions, friendship and individuality.
Duffy, Chris (ed.). Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists. First Second,
2013. 128 p. 9781596438231.
This fantastic compilation includes fairy tales familiar (“Goldilocks and the Three Bears”) and
obscure (“Give Me the Shudders”), produced by a wide range of comic talent including Gilbert
Hernandez (Love and Rockets), Raina Telgemeier (Drama) and Craig Thompson (Habibi). The art
ranges from muted to vibrant and showcases a mix of modern and traditional comic styles. A great
choice for early readers and bedtime stories, though this book’s breadth gives it appeal for all ages.
Harrell, Rob. Monster on the Hill. Top Shelf, 2013. 192p. 978-1603090759.
The residents of Stoker-on-Avon are a little miffed. Every other town in 19th Century England has a
fearsome monster that terrorizes it, and that serves as a point of local pride for the townsfolk. But
Stoker-on-Avon’s nerdy and depressed monster Rayburn leaves a lot to be desired. Enter a mad
scientist and a plucky orphan, who befriend Rayburn and take him on a quest to find his inner
hellraiser. Full of expressive illustrations and glorious monster designs, this hysterical tale also packs
a positive moral about friendship and taking pride in your work, no matter what that work may be!
Patrick. Toon Books. 2011-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
A delightful follow-up to Patrick’s Toon Books debut, Patrick in a Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Other
Stories (2011. 32p. 978-1935179092), Patrick Eats His Peas and Other Stories (2013. 32p. 9781935179344) is perfect for emerging readers as Patrick navigates the traditional challenges of a
young child: eating food he doesn’t like, helping Daddy in the garden, taking a bath and going to
bed. Hayes’ style and storylines will provoke nostalgia in parents while children will enjoy the
relatable experience of Patrick and his everyday adventures.
Hernandez, Gilbert. Marble Season. Drawn and Quarterly, 2013. 128p. 978-1770460867.
Set in a 1960’s Hispanic neighborhood, Huey and his brothers Junior and Chavo enjoy a typical
suburban childhood: playing in the streets, reading comics and learning about growing up -oftentimes without adult oversight. Though their predicaments are innocent, their emotions and
drama are intensely real, such as when they lose access to their comics or find themselves friends
with someone they don’t like. Told in six-panel grids evocative of newspaper strips, this nostalgic
work from the Love and Rockets mastermind is sure to please kids and adults alike.
Rust. Archaia Press. 2011-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
In gorgeous sepia-toned art, this series tells the story of a family and their struggling farm, the
mysterious young man (who is actually a robot) who comes to stay with them, and the dangerous
secrets that follow him. Lepp does a wonderful job creating a believable family dynamic, but it’s the
action where this book really shines. It is impeccably paced, full of cool, steampunk-esque robot
designs, and carefully utilizes digital blurring effects that give everything a sense of incredible
speed. Readers of the first volume, Visitor in the Field (2011. 192p. 978-1936393275), will be
clamoring for the second, Secrets of the Cell (2012. 200p. 978-1936393589) and the upcoming
North, Brian (auth.) and various illustrators.
Adventure Time. KaBOOM!. 2012-present. 3 volumes, ongoing.
The ecstatically bizarre and enduringly popular Cartoon Network series gets a comic book! Unlike
many adaptations, this series perfectly captures both the voice and the zany spirit of its source
material, thanks in no small part to Eisner-winning writer Brian North. The series is notable for it’s
bold experimentation, with each issue containing secret messages and puzzles. One chapter is even
a choose-your-own-adventure! Perfect for fans of the show.
Vol. 1. 2012. 128p. 978-1608862801.
Vol. 2. 2013. 112p. 978-1608863235.
Vol. 3. 2013. 112p. 978-1608863174.
Schwarz, Viviane. The Sleepwalkers. Candlewick. 2013. 96p. 978-0763662301.
When children call for help from their nightmares, three magical sheep come to the rescue. Now,
after a lifetime of work, they must train their replacements: a bear, Bonifacius,created from a quilt;
a monkey created from socks; and a crow created from a fountain pen. Sleepwalkers is an actionpacked, avant garde masterpiece filled with fantastical and imaginative dreamscapes; most notably
the mythical safe house that travels through time and space to rescue children. And sweet
Bonifacius, while terrified, bravely completes his training and serves as a touchstone and inspiration
for children who must confront their fears.
Whitley, Jeremy (auth.) and Emily Martin (illus.).
Princeless. Action Lab Entertainment. 2012-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
Princess Adrienne was locked in a tower to await a princely rescue. However, she grew tired of
waiting and disinterested in being rescued so, with her guardian dragon Sparky at her side,
Adrienne saves herself and vows to rescue her sisters from a similar fate and fight for their
freedom. Along the way, she picks up some proper gear and a best friend in blacksmith Bedelia. This
fantastic adventure turns comics and fantasy tropes on their sides while spotlighting female heroes
and a predominantly African-American cast. This engaging all ages title is hard to find, but worth
spending the extra time to seek out.
Book 1: Save Yourself. 2012. 116p. 978-1450798945.
Book 2: Get Over Yourself. 2013. 100p. 978-0985965242.
Aaron, Jason (auth.) and various illustrators.
Thor: God of Thunder. Marvel Comics, 2013-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
A new and devastating foe has emerged in the universe with a vendetta against the gods that will
affect Thor’s past, present, and bleak future. The storyline involves a mixture of gods and worlds
which neatly expand Thor’s universe, with fast-paced action and writing that strikes a balance
between somber and humorous. The digitally painted art is also particularly striking and epic. This is
that rare superhero comic that doesn’t rely on years’ worth of continuity, and is perfect for both
new and returning readers.
Vol. 1: The God Butcher. 2013. 136p. 978-0785168423.
Vol. 2: Godbomb. 2013. 136p. 978-0785168430.
Fraction, Matt (auth.) with David Aja (illus.) and various other illustrators.
Hawkeye. Marvel Comics, 2013-present. 2 volumes, ongoing.
As a member of the Avengers, non-superpowered bow expert Hawkeye holds his own fighting
alongside the likes of Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. When he’s off-duty, however, his life
tends to be a bit more mundane… at least until he runs afoul of the Russian mob and puts the
residents of his Brooklyn apartment building in harm’s way. Author Fraction’s dialogue crackles with
funny asides and misunderstandings (people regularly mishear our hero’s name as “Hawkguy”)
which serve to strip the overblown grandeur out of the superhero genre. And David Aja’s art is a
revelation -- flat and iconographic, miraculously balancing experimental layouts with blistering
action. Easily the best (and most fun!) superhero book of the year.
Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon. 2013. 136p. 978-0785165620.
Vol. 2: Little Hits. 2013. 136p. 978-0785165637.
Gillen, Kieron (auth.) and Jamie McKelvie (illus.). Young Avengers: Style > Substance. Marvel
Comics, 2013. 127p. 978-0785167082.
Superheroics, meta- experimentation, and good old fashioned teen angst are all in ample supply in
this imaginative series. Picking up from the revelations in 2012’s Avengers: The Children’s Crusade,
this volume starts with the magical hero Wiccan using his reality-warping powers to give his
boyfriend Hulkling a family. But the mother that appears as a result of this spell is actually an
interdimensional parasite bent on undoing reality! Now the Young Avengers (including Loki, who
has been reincarnated as a teenage boy) are on the run. Believable dialogue, realistic relationships,
and gorgeous clear-line artwork.
Hicks, Faith Eric. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse, 2013. 112p. 978-1616550844.
What’s a superhero to do with her powers in a low-crime city? Not even her near-invulnerability
can save Superhero Girl from a mundane lifestyle, complete with laundry mishaps that shrink her
cape! Hicks focuses her art in tight and colorful grids, leading to concise storytelling. Her deadpan
sense of humor is evident throughout, and fans of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series will
particularly enjoy this title.
Lewis, John (auth.) with Andrew Aydin (auth.) and Nate Powell (illus.). March. Top Shelf
Productions, 2012. 128p. 978-1603093002.
March is at once an autobiography of Congressman John Lewis -- the son of a sharecropper who
became a leader of the civil rights movement -- and a moving history lesson. This compelling comic
is framed by President Obama’s 2009 inauguration with flashbacks to Lewis’s childhood on an
Alabama farm, raising chickens and dreaming of becoming a preacher. His move to Nashville for
higher education, his exposure to non-violent practices (and an initial meeting with Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.) and how he began working to end segregation are covered in this volume, the first
in a planned trilogy. The saturated and somber tones of the art set the mood and the era. An
essential and compelling read that truly brings history to life.
Pham, Thien. Sumo. First Second, 2012. 112p. 978-1596435810.
A bad break-up and failed professional football career lead Scott to leave his American hometown
for Japan in an attempt to become a sumo wrestler. Scott is a man of few words, who is searching
for his place in the world and the visuals reinforce Scott’s point of view. This is a quiet and
thoughtful comic. Pham’s strong and chunky drawing lines combined with monotone coloring
reinforce the storytelling and make for a compelling tale. This is a great choice for reluctant readers.
Pope, Paul. Battling Boy. First Second, 2013. 208p. 978-1596431454.
Pope, the iconoclastic force behind such classic comics for grown-ups as Batman: Year 100 and
Heavy Liquid, finally brings his rock-and-roll-inflected stylings to kids comics! The first volume in a
new multifaceted series, Battling Boy introduces a new hero: a young demigod, sent to Earth as a
test of his manhood and tasked with protecting a city from giant monsters! But will sleazy
politicians co-opt his achievements for their own gain? And what of the daughter of Haggard West,
the fallen hero whose shoes Battling Boy hopes to fill, who seems to have ambitions of her own?
This book’s incredible aesthetics, relatable characters, and crackling energy are sure to win over
Ruth, Gregg. The Lost Boy. GRAPHIX, 2013. 192p. 978-0439823319.
Nate discovers an old reel-to-reel audio recorder below the floorboards of his new house that
contains the key to unraveling an urban legend about a boy who disappeared decades before, and
pulls him into a dark fantasy world. Greg Ruth’s illustrations in this nightmarish tale evoke nothing
so much as Stephen Gammell’s classic illustrations from the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series,
with their dark shadows and grotesque creatures derived from everyday things. A perfect spooky
read for brave middle school fantasy fans.
Williams III, J.H. (auth. and illus.) and W. Haden Blackman (auth.). Batwoman: World’s Finest. DC
Comics, 2013. 168p. 978-1401242466.
Batwoman’s comic book series has always had an air of the fantastic about it: after all, her main
enemy is the Church of Crime, which is always sending some monster or another her way. But with
the inclusion of Wonder Woman things get positively mythic, as the two team up to hunt down
Medusa! J.H. Williams III is a powerhouse illustrator and delivers some of the most gorgeous layouts
here that you are likely to ever see. Also of note is the romantic relationship between Batwoman
and Gotham City Det. Maggie Sawyer, which takes a big leap in this volume. Never before have two
female superheroes kicked more ass, or done it more beautifully.
Yang, Gene. Boxers. First Second, 2013. 336p. 978-1596433595.
Yang, Gene. Saints. First Second, 2013. 176p. 978-1596436893.
Gene Yang delivers the proper follow-up to his beloved National Book Award-nominated American
Born Chinese, a diptych whose two volumes tell the story of China’s turbulent Boxer Rebellion -- in
which China’s peasants led a bloody incursion against Western imperialism and the influence of
Christianity -- from both sides. What’s amazing is the way that Yang manages to create sympathetic
portraits of all the players involved without vilifying anyone, making the story that much more
complex and wrenching. The heroes of one group are the villains of the other, but isn’t that how
war always works? Yang’s illustrations are crisp and inviting, belying the tragedy the books contain.
The art is aided by longtime collaborator Lark Pien’s vivid colors which give each volume a distinct
feel. Taken together, Boxers and Saints create an absolute masterpiece that is sure to provoke
emotion and thought in all readers.
Cliff, Tony. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant. First Second, 2013. 176p. 978-1596438132.
Delilah Dirk is a force to be reckoned with: consider her the 19th-Century’s Indiana Jones, minus the
academics but plus a flying boat. Selim is a mild-mannered Turkish lieutenant with a penchant for
making a fantastic cup of tea. Together, they form an unlikely partnership that leads them on
swashbuckling, globetrotting adventures. Cliff's jewel-toned coloring enhances his vibrant art while
infusing his storytelling with quiet moments and humorous touches. This is a refreshing comics for
adults: not full of salacious content or foul language, but featuring grown-up characters with grownup concerns. It’s also tons of fun!
Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoir. Gotham,
2012. 256p. 978-1592407323.
Longtime Seattle underground cartoonist Ellen Forney vividly documents her history of manic
depression and attempts at treatment, while wondering at the link between mania and creativity by
looking at the lives of famous artists. Forney’s writing is charming, frank, and direct as she boldly
lays bare her anxieties, most critically the fear that she’s lost track of where her illness ends and her
own mind begins. A brave work that anyone whose life has been touched by mental illness will
Georges. Nicole J. Calling Dr. Laura: A Graphic Memoir. Mariner Books, 2013. 288p. 9780547615592.
Don't let the book’s title or the description of Nicole -- a vegan lesbian who learns from a psychic
that her father is alive after thinking he’d been dead her whole life -- keep you from picking up this
engaging comic. After her sisters confirm the psychic's story, Nicole must confront the stress and
damage done by decades of secret-keeping while determining whether to maintain an ongoing
relationship with her mother, and coming to share secrets of her. This coming-of-age and comingout comic was originally published in zine format and Georges tight and heavy art is at once
personal and evocative of the zine reading experience. Thankfully, the Dr. Laura portion of the
narrative is limited and enters late in the narrative. Instead, the storyline rightly focus on Nicole, her
childhood experiences, and her familial and romantic relationships. A perfect match for fans of
Allison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007. 232p. 978-0618871711.).
Hickman, Jonathan (auth.) and Nick Pitarra (illus.).
The Manhattan Projects. Image Comics, 2012-present. 3 volumes, ongoing.
What if the atomic bomb was actually the most benign product of the Manhattan Projects? That is
the question asked by this dark, weird series. Though recasting the greatest scientific minds of the
Twentieth Century as twisted versions of themselves (Oppenheimer is an evil twin of himself who
killed and ate his benevolent double, Einstein is a violent drunk, etc.) might seem disrespectful,
Hickman manages to demonstrate both great understanding of the work these towering figures did,
and absolute reverence for what they achieved… even when having them fight aliens and suicidal
Death Buddhists. An absolute trip.
Vol. 1: Science Bad. 2012. 144p. 978-1607066088.
Vol. 2. 2013. 152p. 978-1607067269.
Vol. 3. 2013. 152p. 978-1607067535.
Kindt, Matt. Red-Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes. First Second, 2013. 272p. 9781596436626.
In this magical-realist riff on Dick Tracy, an all-business supercop named Detective Gould has a firm
grip on the town of Red Wheelbarrow’s crime. Nothing escapes his notice (except, occasionally, the
emotional needs of his wife). But when a crime spree starts that defies any rational motive -- a chair
thief, an author who writes her stories using stolen signs -- will Gould be able to unravel the
connections in time? Kindt is brilliant with layouts, working little clues and puzzles into the pages as
he goes, and invoking the spirit of old crime stories from the ‘50s. A gripping story, a brilliant
homage, and a love letter to the power of comics.
Knisley, Lucy. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. First Second, 2013. 176p. 978-1596436237.
Knisley was born to food-loving parents and raised in both Manhattan and upstate New York amidst
farmers and famous chefs. As a result, she loves food. In this engaging comic memoir -- complete
with detailed, illustrated recipes -- Kisley recounts her lifetime of learning about, preparing, and
loving food, and celebrating the community that can grow around it. Her warm, soft coloring evokes
a nostalgic feel that perfectly suits this love letter to the joy of eating.
Modan, Rutu. The Property. Drawn and Quarterly, 2013. 232p. 978-1770461154.
A young Israeli woman accompanies her grandmother to Poland to see about recovering a building
the family owned before they had to flee the country during World War II. However, it turns out
that grandmother has more personal reasons for making the trip. Through the story,
author/illustrator Modan explores the different ways that the long shadow of the Holocaust hangs
over several generations of Jews, and pokes gentle, knowing fun at Jewish life and culture.
Romantic, moving, and surprising, this book deserves a spot on the shelf with other great comics
about the legacy of war, such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Very
Morrison, Grant (auth.) and various illustrators. Happy! Image Comics, 2013. 96p. 9781607066774.
Nick Sax, a former cop turned drunken hitman, is seriously injured during a job gone wrong. Now a
target of the mob, Sax is on the run... and in the company of a flying blue horse named Happy, the
imaginary friend of a lost girl. The story overall is filthy, twisted and sick, but also blisteringly
original and surprisingly moving, as Sax’s relationship to the surreal horse becomes clear. Not for
the faint of heart, this comic features strong language, graphic violence and sexual situations,
including child abuse. The juxtaposition of perky, primary-colored Happy against the somber tones
will keep rapt readers guessing until the end.
Murphy, Sean. Punk Rock Jesus. Vertigo, 2013. 224p. 978-1401237684.
What if Jesus Christ was cloned and his upbringing was the basis of a reality television show? And
what happens when that child hits his teenage years and decides to rebel?! That's the basic plotline
of Punk Rock Jesus, but the reality of this impressive comic is so much more; it explores issues
around religion, education, science, entertainment and activism. This is a smart, fast-paced
Wood, Brian (auth.) with Becky Cloonan (illus.) and James Harren (illus.). Conan, vol. 13: The
Queen of the Black Coast. Dark Horse, 2013. 152p. 978-1616550424.
“In time, the story would spread along the southern coasts, that the she-devil Belit had found a
mate, a man of iron whose wrath was equal to her own. Villages resisted and were burned. Stygian
ships were taken, their survivors cursing Belit with dying breath. And also Conan, with his ice-blue
eyes. They would remember him. The bitterness and hate would yield crimson fruit for years to
come…” A young Conan teams up with (and beds) a fearsome lady pirate, and together they spread
chaos and death. Author Wood’s Conan is much younger and more charismatic than most
incarnations of the famous barbarian, and Cloonan’s art in the first half of the book brings a sly and
sensual side to the character that will likely surprise most readers. Things get bloody in the second
half as Conan and his lover Belit decide to sack a city, and the tonal shift is matched by Harren’s
more exaggerated style.