Before Kate Beaton began her popular comic strip Hark a Vagrant, she moved to the Alberta tar oil sands for work so that she might pay off her student loan. Her two years there are the subject of Ducks, a masterpiece of comics memoir and her most ambitious work to date. Its subject matter is no less than the destruction of human beings and the environment by vast interlocking systems of class, commerce, and exploitation. But Beaton renders her experiences in simple and expressive cartooning accessible to all readers.
Tatsuki Fujimoto is best known for Chainsaw Man, soon to be adapted into a hit animated series. But for my money, his best work is Look Back, a tale of two comics artists who forge a partnership in middle school. It's a roller-coaster of a narrative that takes readers to the brink of the abyss--only to ask them: what good is a silly comic strip, really? By the end of this one, however, you will believe that a silly comic strip can change the world.
Garo was once Japan's most famous alternative comics magazine, willing to publish stories others would never touch. Even so, few Garo artists were quite like Murasaki Yamada, whose elegantly drawn tales of family life are collected in Talk to My Back. Yamada's comics capture the joy and frustration of parenting, the ways in which men take women for granted, and the liberation offered by financial independence from the family unit. Japan has a long history of comics artists drawing stories about girls and women, but few in Yamada's time were as willing to demand more on the page.