In many ways 2009 was the year of the graphic novel for me. I went from hardly ever reading any, to reading them on a fairly regular basis. Of all the comics I read this year, (around 25), one stands out above them all.
Palestine by Joe Sacco
In this comic, set during the early 90's, the author, and artist, Joe Sacco, travels to Israeli occupied Palestine to research and interview people for his comic. Throughout the comic what you get are first hand interviews with Palestinians who have experienced the hardship and terror of their struggle with Israel. Sacco hears a wide variety of stories, and he somewhat ruthlessly collects these tales in order to create the comic he wishes to write. Sacco makes it very clear from the get-go that he is not trying to give "both sides" of the story as he assumes that his American readers will be familiar with the Israeli's side. What you get instead is an eye opening perspective from the Palestinian view point.
I will admit that prior to reading this book, I knew little about the Palestinian/Israeli struggle. What I did know came from our very one sided American news sources that have almost always told me that Israel is "good" and Palestine is "bad" (more recently that they are terrorists). While I am smart enough to know that things are rarely, if ever, that cut and dry, I honestly wasn't very aware of the alternate perspective. This book opened my mind and taught me a few things. For that reason, this was a great book, but it was great for other reasons as well. Sacco collected some amazing and often heartbreaking stories from the people he interviewed. Alongside and infused with the stories are Sacco's fantastically detailed black and white illustrations which really bring the people, and setting to life. Palestine is a complete visual and mental experience. It manages to be informative, entertaining, and genuine all at the same time, and I really consider it a must read for everybody.