Oh, Aya. Aya, Aya, Aya. I absolutely adore this series - it may very well be one of my favorite comics of all time. Why do I love Aya so much? Mostly because:
1. It's a tale about Africa that doesn't often get told.
Plenty of stories are set in African countries, and for the most part they focus on the harsher realities of the continent. It's important to tell these stories, of course, but it's also important to see stories about lighter struggles and triumphs. Set in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s, Aya puts everyday life in the spotlight, with pages in the back of every book devoted to local recipies, fashion, and slang.
2. It's incredibly well done, in a medium that's tricky to do well.
The colors are gorgeous - even with the cartoony art style, each panel feels just like a photograph of suburban Africa. The page layouts are simple without being boring. Smart choices in word balloon placement allow for tons of dialogue while never crowding panels. All this is even more remarkable when you consider it's the first comics work from both writer Marguerite Abouet and artist Clément Oubrerie. (A husband-and-wife team, as if this whole enterprise wasn't charming enough already.)
3. It's just plain fun.
Secret romances! Paternity mysteries! Fueds between friends! It's like a tawdry teen drama, but with enough wit to keep it well within the non-guilty please zone. Simultaneously breezy and substantial, it's hard to get your hands on a volume and not gobble it up like literary candy.
There are currently three volumes in the series, starting with Aya, then followed by Aya of Yop City, and then the most recent release, Aya: The Secrets Come Out.