Rachel Cooke’s best graphic novels of 2023

This hasn’t been a vintage year for comics; a certain grimness clung to many of those that came my way. But still, I read some good ones from big names and small, and Camille Jourdy’s beautiful and adorable Juliette ranks among the three books I most enjoyed in 2023, of whatever kind.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Blankets: 20th Anniversary Edition by Craig Thompson (Faber)
Amazing to think it’s now two decades since Thompson published his groundbreaking autobiographical story set in the snowy midwest of America, a heartbreaking tale of faith and first love. Faber has done him proud with this beautiful, Bible-size new edition. Every home should have one.

Monica by Daniel Clowes (Jonathan Cape)
A new book by Clowes, still best known for Ghost World, is always eagerly anticipated, and Monica, a collection of nine stories loosely linked by the prickly misfit of its title, didn’t disappoint. Conspiracy theories, crank cults, toxic relationships: Clowes gives us our own times magnificently disguised as a gorgeous-looking period piece.

Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)
Two’s company and three is a crowd in this sassy account of college students away for the weekend in New York. Competing loyalties, burgeoning sexual attraction and the fractiousness born of trying to work out the subway: you’ll remember it all yourself, whether you’ve been to Manhattan or not.

Chantal Montellier Social Fiction

Social Fiction by Chantal Montellier (translated by Geoffrey Brock) (NYR Comics)
This book collects together the 70s and 80s dystopian visions of the pioneering French feminist cartoonist Chantal Montellier in the form of three novellas. With its focus on the horrors of totalitarianism – I like the newly wed eugenics one! – it won’t make for the cheeriest of Christmas presents, but it is gripping and sometimes darkly funny.

Juliette by Camille Jourdy (Drawn & Quarterly)
My favourite graphic novel of the year, this funny and gorgeously illustrated book about a depressed young woman who returns to the small French town where she grew up is one for fans of Posy Simmonds and Lizzy Stewart. Look out for the lover who arrives for afternoon sex disguised as a bear.

One for my stocking (though it would have to be quite a big stocking)
Visiting Tate Modern’s Philip Guston retrospective, I thought how much his later work reminded me of the Krazy Kat strips of George Herriman (1880-1944), which I knew as a child thanks to my father – and, sure enough, it turned out that Guston was a fan. So I’d like a collection of old Krazy Kat cartoons, in one of the volumes Fantagraphics has put together as part of its acclaimed George Herriman library.

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