Ayako – Innocent Ayako and her family are used as a metaphor for a study of the disintegration of the power held by traditional Japanese feudal landlords in the decades following World War II. Medidative and compelling family drama and far more from a Manga master. Osamu Tezuka and Vertical Books.

Beyond Palomar – Combines two equally masterful stories, one a scathing representation of social tension in late 1990s LA, the other a great crime story that also happens to be the early years of Gilbert Hernandez’s often used Luba character. From Fantagraphics Books.

Daytripper – There’s a brilliant piece of trickery to Daytripper enabling the creators to examine the value of life and the significance of death. It may sound gloomy, but this is a joyful, life-affirming work created with an abundance of care and skill. Gabriel Bá, Fabio Moon and Vertigo.

Essex County – Three beautifully observed and constructed stories about isolation in rural communities with the lives they’ve lived etched on the faces of the cast. Jeff Lemire’s superhero work rarely has the emotional power of this heartbreak. Jeff Lemire and Top Shelf Productions.

Love and Rockets: Perla La Loca – Day to day life for Latin American 20somethings in Los Angeles. “Endlessly funny, sad, complicated and compulsive reading that doesn’t go anywhere that you think it’s going”. And beautifully drawn by a complete master. Jaime Hernandez and Fantagraphics Books.

Ordinary Victories – Two richly observational meditations following Marco’s guilt and fear of committment “It’s difficult to conceive anyone with passion and intelligence not losing themselves without feeling immeasurably improved by the experience”. Manu Larcenet and NBM

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life – The final volumes are 5 star material, but not fully appreciated without starting here as the directionless Scott decides he has to win the girl of his dreams. Go for the colour edition, although it’s also available in black and white. Bryan Lee O’Malley and Oni Press.

Tamara Drewe – Richer and more character driven than the film adaptation, it’s roughly the same story of Tamara returning to her rural village after being reinvented via plastic surgery and setting the cat among the pigeons. Masterfully observed and superlatively drawn. Posy Simmonds and Jonathan Cape.

Tricked – A complex inter-twining of six characters who’re only ever in the same location once, yet have slivers connecting them. You’ll come to know and love the cast and all their foibles, and live and dream alongside them. Alex Robinson and Top Shelf Productions.

Unstable Molecules – What if in the early 1960s their original creators had based the Fantastic Four on folk from their suburban neighbourhood, lifting the personalities wholesale? What were the lives of these people like. The answer matches the intriguing premise. James Sturm, Guy Davis and Marvel.