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2022 Year in Review: Best Translated Comic, Non-Manga

By | December 14th, 2022
Posted in Columns | % Comments

Welcome to the Multiversity Year in Review for 2022! We’ve got over 25 categories to get through, so make sure you’re checking out all of the articles by using our 2022 Year in Review tag.

Every year wonderful comics are made all around the world, but we tend to focus on stories that were originally written in English. So we created a category for best translated work, only for that to be dominated by Japanese imports. We wanted to rave about all of those wonderful Japanese comics while also giving a space to celebrate the rest of the world. Here are some of our favorite 2022 comics that were originally written in languages other than English or Japanese!

3. Always Never

I’ve had some people tell me that romance is a genre without tension because you know the two leads are going to get together. I find that strange because that’s not what romance is about—it’s not if the characters get together, but how they change so that they can get together, and in the best of the genre it makes them better people. Jordi Lafebre’s “Always Never” is a story told in reverse, with our leads together right from the start. It deliberately puts a focus on how these characters change as they muse about who they used to be. With the emphasis reversed, we are introduced to things that mean so much to them (such as a certain bridge) and then as the story goes backward through time we see the point when the idea that will someday grow into a bridge first wanders into their lives and how unimportant it seemed at the time. It’s a story of the granular things that become huge later in life, and also all the huge things that fall away.

When Anita and Zeno first meet, they cannot be together. As appealing as a romance together might be, their relationship has a weak foundation and they want very different things from life. Later in life, their different lives have converged and a bridge between the two worlds is possible—a little strange to look at perhaps, and with foundations in unexpected places, but it works in all the ways the original plan for the bridge would have failed. (The bridge in the story is not a subtle metaphor, but it is an effective one.)

The title “Always Never” appears very late in the book, written in a letter by Zeno to describe what he considers their doomed relationship, at a point when he has given up hope. Seeing their lives in reverse, we’ve already seen that what he thinks of as gargantuan barriers will ultimately melt away. At the end of the book, in Chapter 1, we finally see how the two met, though by this point we already know the story—we’ve heard their explanations to each other about how everything went off the rails—and so Lafebre uses our familiarity with it to show us it from a different perspective. The final chapter plays out in reverse and without dialogue. It creates a distance and makes it seem so far away, just like an old memory, but there are moments in there, inconsequential things really, that are so vivid and alive and as true in that distant past as they are in the present—or rather even more true and richer in the present. – Mark Tweedale

2. Giantess

Magnetic Press had a very good year in 2022, bringing over a number of beautiful European graphic novels (and two illustrated books, too.) Of that treasure trove of titles, one stood head and shoulders above the pack, and I don’t just mean that literally. “Giantess” is a gorgeous looking book with a story reminiscent of classic fantasy epics. Unlike those epics, or at least not like their modern ilk, “Giantess” forgoes the dense, impenetrable lore and names for a simple yet deep narrative about a woman finding her place in the world, finding it wanting, and setting out to change it in the only way she knows how.

Structurally, the comic is divided into neat chapters encompassing different eras of Celeste’s life, from discovery by farmers as a baby through adolescence all the way to her adventures as an adult. And when I say adventures, I do mean multiple full adventures, some darker than others. That variety of narrative and its role in shaping the character of Celeste helps keep the book feeling expansive without being overstuffed. I don’t think I’ve read a comic that does this kind of story this well in a long, long time.

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And that art! Nuria Tamarit’s style looks almost like it was drawn in colored pencils, with soft outlines and fluid, expressive characters. I love the way Tamarit draws the button eyes. They’re larger than usual with more shading, creating deep pools on faces that allows the comic to retain its storybook aesthetic. The environments are sumptuous too but what’s really amazing is how she’s able to create the sense of scale necessary for a story of a giant interacting with humans without diluting the details needed to tell a moving and engrossing story.

Because that’s what “Giantess” is and why it won its place here. It’s a return to a classic mode of storytelling with modern sensibilities, a gorgeous art style, and a narrative that is as compelling as it is thoughtful. I can’t think of a better title to come over here from the European sphere this year, even if this title is only at #2. – Elias Rosner

1. Olympia

Fantagraphics are pretty renowned for their knack at finding some of the strongest material in European comics, but Bastien Vives, Jerome Mulot and Florent Ruppert’s “Olympia” doesn’t necessarily feel like a ‘Fantagraphics book,’ the sequel to the trio’s “The Grand Odalisque” and is an equally popcorn-worthy, sexy, nonsensical comedy crime comedy.

Where “Odalisque” channeled the godfather of all good heist stories, Ocean’s Eleven, “Olympia” actually manages to extract something fun from an homage to Ocean’s Twelve, as heroes Sam, Alex and Carole are forced to steal three masterpieces in one night to pay off their debt. Unlike many heist stories however, the plot here isn’t trying to outsmart you, it’s working to delight and impress you, it has the suspense of a stand-up set, rather than a magic show.

Vives, Mulot and Ruppert are all formidable cartoonists in their own right, which explains how when collaborating, they can extract this much expression from their figures. It’s a kinetic book that revels in the intricacies of small movements amidst massive action, demanding you keep up and pay attention.

Getting a second “Odalisque” was a treat, but having it be this strong of a showcase makes me hope the trio keep spitting out entries for as long as they can. “Olympia” is the best of international comics. – James Dowling

//TAGS | 2022 Year in Review

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