If printed volumes are to survive the avalanche of e-books and other screen-based literary media, their rescuers may well be graphic novels. Visually rich, physically substantial, and tactilely satisfying, graphic novels and their nonfiction cousins deliver a powerful counterpunch to the tyranny of pixels. Subtleties of color, tone, line work, and the interplay of ink on high-quality paper offer a visual experience that gets lost in digital reproduction. Here is a small sampling of the diverse offerings from 2012 that might delight someone on your holiday list and help keep printing presses humming.
The standout work of the year is Chris Ware’s breathtaking treasure chest, “Building Stories.” It is a sumptuous box containing 14 beautiful books of varying sizes, formats, and lengths. They include small pamphlets, a newspaper-size broadsheet, a folding board suggestive of a Monopoly game, and several bound books, including one designed to pay homage to children’s Little Golden Books. There is no suggested sequence, and the reader is enlisted in “building stories” by choosing where to start. The books share a setting (postwar Chicago), a main character (and her relationships or lack thereof over several decades), and a mood (intimate and introspective).