The Los Angeles Times has, for the first time, added a Graphic Novel category to their annual Book Prizes. This year's finalists are Luba (A Love and Rockets Book) by Gilbert Hernandez, GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto, Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli, Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley, and Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco.
While on the indie side, it's still an eclectic mix, from the longtime contenders like the latest from Love and Rockets, GoGo Monster's manga style, or the frenetic pace of Scott Pilgrim (soon to be a major motion picture starring Michael Cera), but one book I'll personally vouch for is Asterios Polyp.
Asterios Polyp tells the story of an architecture professor, the great love of his life, and what happens after it all falls apart. It's a beautiful book, with inventive art that show the best of what comics as an art form can be. The layouts surprise you while still being completely logical, drawing you in. The book uses color, but does so sparingly, using it to express emotions and ideas rather than trying to be lifelike.
The book was written and drawn by David Mazzucchelli, best known in the comics world for his wonderful art while collaborating with writer Frank Miller on character defining pieces Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again. He's only dabbled sporadically in comics since Year One, so when Asterios Polyp dropped last year, it caught the comics world by surprise.
Check out comics expert Scott McCloud's review for more on why this book is so special.