It’s already being hailed as a classic, and it was released only Tuesday. Building Stories features the stories of four people who live in one Chicago building. They lead quiet lives that we can all recognize, especially in the magnificent “Money” spread that so well captures financial desperation. But Ware’s artistry lies not in recognition but in complicating time and space—form—so much so that we can see these everyday, domestic lives as if for the first time. Building Stories gorgeously expands the graphic-novel form: it is a big box of treasures, consisting of 14 books, pamphlets, or posters of different sizes, and you can read them in any order. The narrative experience is fractured but strung together not by the act of reading one grid after another (although that happens as well) but by putting one book down and picking up another. He is “building stories” using new devices, and this allows us to experience the process of creativity.
This approach to art Ware shares with the best graphic novelists of the times—they help us see and feel objects for the first time. From the proto–graphic novelist and expressionist artist Lynd Ward to the incomparable storyteller Alison Bechdel, here are 11 of the greatest graphic novels that every reader should turn to.