Top 5 BD of the first half of 2017 including Ekho, Clara, Back to Basics, The Campbells, and Ken Games

Top 5 BD of 2017 So Far

In the course of all the reading and reviewing I’ve done for the site this year, a few books stand out as being favorites.

These are the books that I recommend to people looking for new titles to read.  These are the books that I enthusiastically couldn’t wait to write my thoughts down about as soon as I finished reading them.

They’re the books whose creators I follow now, whose series I put on my wish list, and whose characters I want to draw fan art for.

I’ve specifically chosen to highlight books that are relatively new/modern.  None have more than six volumes in their series.  This means no “Lucky Luke” or “Valerian,” though I love both series and would recommend specific parts of them.

In no particular order:

 

Ken Games

by Toledano and Robledo

This is a four part thriller series about three friends and the crazy ways their lives intersect.  One is a boxer, another a poker player, and the third is an assassin.  But none of them know that about each other, until things go crazy.

It’s a well constructed tale that maps out the characters strongly, matched with some terrific cartooning.  It’s Franco-Belgian meets Manga a little bit, but not much.  It still leads more toward the realistic side of things, but with some unique cartooning characteristics that makes it look unique.  It’s a tight, well controlled art style that sells the story.

Their follow-up series to this is the Japanese Tattoo crime story, “Tebori,” of which I reviewed the first volume.  Two volumes are available thus far.

Ken Games volume 1: "Rock" cover

v1: “Rock”

Ken Games v2 Paper

v2: “Paper”

Ken Games v3 cover header image by Marcial Toledano

v3: “Scissors”

Ken Games v4 by José Manuel Robledo and Marcial Toledano

v4: “Louviers”

 

The Campbells

by Jose-Luis Munuera

Please Note: This entire series is on sale at Comixology until Sunday, August 13, 2017. It’s the best $3.98 (per book) you can spend right now.

Three volumes are out so far.  This one tells the tale of a pirate who retires after the death of his wife.  He’s raising the two kids on his own now and trying to stay out of trouble, but the past is something that always catches up to you in these sorts of stories.

Again, this is a series that goes back and forth in the timeline to give you just the right story bits at the right moment.  Munuera’s art is very cartoony, like a comic book drawn by a Disney Features animator of the 80s or 90s.  His characters emote strongly and have strong body language.  It’s a book I never get tired of looking at.

A fourth volume is due out this fall, with a fifth on the way for next year.

The book is one you could probably read with your kids of a certain age, too.  The first chapter of the first book deals with mountains that look like breasts, but that’s about as “questionable” as it gets.

Munuera is also the artist on “Spellbound,” a series I’m just starting to read now, but with a slightly adjusted art style that I don’t like quite as much. Still good comics work, but not the style I’d prefer him to draw in.

The Campbells volume 1 Inferno cover detail

Volume 1

 

Ekho

by Christophe Arleston and Alessandro Barbucci

I have all six volumes of this series, but have only read the first two so far.  The problem usually comes from finding a large enough block of time to read the next one.  This is a book that isn’t overwritten, but is densely packed with art that makes my mind explode. Barbucci, like Munuera, has some of those Disney Features animator tendencies, but also a hyper amount of detail in the art, particularly with the establishing shots of architectural wonders.

There’s a little bit of Good Girl art in the book, which is an unfortunate distraction at times.

Arleston’s writing has a nice mythology to the backstory, with plenty of craziness and character-based humor in the present day, as the lead duo find themselves in increasingly crazy situations.

Arleston also writes “Morea”, of which I’ve reviewed both volume 1 and volume 2.  That series is highly not recommended.

Ekho volume 1 cover

Volume 1

Ekho 2 Paris cover detail

Volume 2

 

Clara

by Christophe Lemon and Cecile

This is a one-off book, telling the touching story of a young girl learning to adapt to life after her mother’s sudden passing.

It’s drawn to almost look like a children’s illustrated storybook, but it’s all sequential art. You’ll fall in love with Clara quickly, be heartbroken alongside her, and root her on for the rest of the book.

It’s not a high action thriller or a sci fi spectacular or an animated style laugh-a-minute story, but that’s OK. We all need a little something different here and there.  This one just happened to push some of my buttons… It’s a quick, yet touching, read.

Clara cover detail

 

Back to Basics

by Manu Larcenet and Jean-Yves Ferri

Manu Larcenet moves from the big city to the country and has some problems adjusting to his new life and neighbors . This series of books is his comic strip-like take on living life in the country, complete with a wacky cast of supporting characters and the continuing changes in his life, such as kids. Picture “Newhart” from the 80s, but with a the cartoonist from “Bob” in the 90s.

It is a well executed book with great cute cartoony art from Ferri that would fit well into your daily newspaper comics section (remember those?), and brightly colored, too.

If you’re looking for humor or slice of life or just have a thing for comic strips/webcomics, this is your best bet.

Back to Basics v1 cover detail by Manu Larcenet

Volume 1

Cover for Back to Basics by Manu Larcenet and Jean-Yves Ferri volume 2

Volume 2

Back to Basics volume 4 cover detail

Volume 4

 

The Second Half of 2017

Since I put together this list last month, I read the first two volumes of “Undertaker.”  That series will definitely make an end of year list.

After that, I don’t know what’s coming next, and that’s a very exciting thing.  I’m looking forward to reading more volumes of some of the series I’ve been enjoying so far this year.

I’m looking forward to reading “Long John Silver,” which I just picked up on sale at Comixology.  “Les Beaux Etes” is coming this fall.  The art on that is amazing, and I can’t wait to read the English version of it.

In the “Classics” division, we’re finally getting English editions of “Gaston La Gaffe” in the weeks ahead.

And a few of the books I mentioned in this article are coming out soon, too, like “Shi” and “Stern”.

It’s looking like the rest of the year could be just as exciting as the first half.

And while I’ve highlighted five series above, there are a lot of other good books I’ve read this year, too. (“Sangre,” “Isabellae,” “The Reprieve,” “Hearts at Sea,” “The Midlife Crisis,” “Blank Slate,” etc.)  If you’re new to European comics, I hope you’ll peruse the back catalog of reviews on this site going back to the beginning of 2017 to find more treasures.

 

The Video Version

Here is the Pipeline Vlog episode of this list:

 

1 Comment

  • JC Lebourdais August 9, 2017 at 11:48 am

    Given the current decompression trends in French BD, a real challenge to find series that have less than a gazillion volumes

    Reply

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