'Tis the season to find a special gift for friends, family members and loved ones. As a young culture connoisseur I am frequently asked for recommendations on the latest and greatest things. So for the next month my column will be devoted to giving you my picks on what 2017 has to offer. First up are some of this year's best comic books.
"Black Panther" — Technically this series started last year but now is the perfect time to jump in. Written by journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, known for his pieces in "The Atlantic" and his autobiography "Between The World and Me," the Hugo-nominated comic explores the sociopolitical issues of Wakanda, home to the first black superhero in mainstream American comics. If you like the series, check out the spin-off "Black Panther & the Crew" which was unfortunately cancelled after six issues. Black Panther had a minor appearance in "Captain America: Civil War" but next year marks his first solo film. Brush up on the source material before seeing it on the big screen.
"My Favorite Thing is Monsters" — Emil Ferris' debut graphic novel is all anyone is talking about this year, and for good reason. Set in Chicago in 1968, 10-year-old Karen Reyes tries to find out who murdered her upstairs neighbor even though the police declared the death a suicide. Instead of presenting readers with the usual panels of crisp and clear ink, the story is illustrated in a unique way as to make it feel like we're reading the protagonist’s very own notebook pages. The crosshatched pen sketches draw an emotional coming of age story that took Ferris six years to produce.
"Legend of Korra: Turf Wars" — Just because "The Legend of Korra" is no longer on the air, that doesn't me the story is over. Michael Dante DiMartino, one of the shows creators, partnered with artist Irene Koh to pick up exactly where the finale left off three years ago. Korra, the powerful reincarnation of Aang from the hit series "Avatar: The Last Airbender," has her vacation with Asami cut short after a new threat appears. The beautiful animation and stellar voice acting may be absent from the paperbound medium, but the writing and art are still wonderful. Who doesn't want more Korra in their lives?
"The Best We Could Do" — While "My Favorite Thing is Monsters" may have some autobiographical elements, Thi Bui's debut is 100 percent a personal memoir. The Vietnam-born Californian weaves her personal journey of her family living in refugee camps after the Vietnam War in a disorientating and provocative non-chronological order. The breathtaking watercolor work uses a primarily orange color scheme and, since it involved compiling an oral history, took 10 years to create. Just like other classic autobiographical graphic novels such as "Fun Home," "Persepolis" and "Maus," this is an absolute must-read that's extremely relevant.
"Paper Girls: Book One" — With 2016's first volume being nominated for a Hugo, the new collection of "Paper Girl's" first 10 issues is a great entry point. Brian K. Vaughan, known outside of the comic book world for his writing on television shows "Lost" and "Under the Dome," shares the story of four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls witnessing a scifi invasion during their Halloween morning deliveries. The series has already won two Eisner Awards due to Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson's bright and retro art style that creates something both modern and 80s inspired. It's part "Stand by Me," part "War of the Worlds," and all amazing.
"Saga: Volume Seven" — I included the sixth volume last year but with this award-winning space opera series being in almost every "Best Of" list since it first hit the shelves in 2012 I couldn't ignore it. Also written by Brian K. Vaughan, it tells the tale of a couple from warring alien races trying to find a peaceful life for their daughter. On one hand it's a scifi epic and on the other it's a personal story about Vaughan being a parent. Joining him is Fiona Staples, whose iconic style has won her multiple Eisner awards. Many times I'll stare at the beautiful artwork not wanting to turn the page. If there's one series you read, make it "Saga."
This holiday guide is part one in a four part series. Check out next week's column for more gift ideas.