Graphic novels continue to gain recognition.  National Public Radio has included Laurel Maury’s selection of the five “Best Graphic Novels of 2008” in its “Complete Holiday Book Recommendations” and Sunday’s New York Times Book Review “Holiday Books” edition includes a 2-page spread of comics/graphic novel recommendations by Douglas Wolk.


Though both lists favor the sort of literary comics that would appeal to their respective audiences, Wolk casts a wider net by including twelve volumes including titles from DC Comics and Dark Horse.  He begins with a discussion of Kramer’s Ergot 7 ($125) from Buenaventura, which Wolk calls “one of the grandest English language comics artifacts ever produced—a mammoth hardcover anthology 16 by 21 inches,” and follows it with Yuichi Yokoyama’s wordless Travel ($19.95, Picturebox), which he contrasts with Dirk Schwieger’s Moresukine: Uploaded Weekly From Tokyo ($15.95, NBM/Comics/Lit), a more conventional, but no less interesting travelogue of Japan.  Wolk then recommends Frank Miller’s Absolute Ronin ($99) and Neil Gaiman’s Absolute Sandman ($99), which he refers to a “worthy upgrades.”


From 2008’ many volumes of comic strip reprints, Wolk chose Dark Horse’s two-volume collection of Richard E. Hughes and Ogden Whitney’s highly unlikely 1960s superstar Herbie, and Alison Bechdel’s Essential Dykes to Watch Out For (the subject of a previous NYT review, see “The Times Loves New Bechdel Collection”).  With Zack Snyder’s highly publicized Watchmen movie set to debut in March,  Wolk also touted Dave Gibbons’ Watching the Watchmen ($39.95, Titan) as the perfect choice “for those of us who’ve already read Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ mid-1980s autopsy of the superhero ideal.”


Contemporary comics singled out by Wolk include Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole ($19.95, Top Shelf), Berlin: City of Smoke ($19.95, Drawn & Quarterly), the second volume in Jason Lutes’ superb Berlin trilogy, and The Best American Comics ($22, Houghton Mifflin) edited by Lynda Barry.


It is a testament to the diversity and quality of graphic novel offerings in 2008 that none of Wolk’s selections made onto Laurel Maury’s list of the five best graphic novels of the year, which includes  (in order) Joshua Cotter’s Skyscrapers of the Midwest ($19.95, Adhouse Books), Brian Wood’s Local ($29.95, Oni Press), Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Good-Bye ($19.95, Drawn & Quarterly), Emmanuel Guibert’s Alan’s War ($24, First Second), and Paul Pope’s Heavy Liquid ($39.95, Vertigo).