Graphic novels are underrated. Most people think graphic novels and comics are just superhero stories, when in fact, they are so much more! Some graphic novels tell truly captivating stories and the illustrations only add to their impact. If you have been curious about graphic novels, this is a list you should take a look at.
A great graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley who is best known for Scott Pilgrim against the world. This novel will be a very enjoyable read with lots of relatable every-day situations. The ancient spirits to give it an interesting twist.
Synopsis: Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:
1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew
2. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant
Although it’s a graphic novel, it’s not the lightest read. It’s really well done and highlights some important issues. This book would be a great start for anyone who thought they weren’t into graphic novels.
Synopsis: In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
3. Fun Home
If you study English literature, or recently graduated it, if you’re interested in queer literature and/or memoirs, this might be the perfect graphic novel to start with.
Synopsis: Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the Fun Home. It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.
4. The Underwater Welder
A brilliant story, with great fleshed-out characters. Jeff Lemire is a known name when it comes to Graphic novels so be sure to check out some of his other work as well.
Synopsis: As an underwater welder on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia, Jack Joseph is used to the immense pressures of deep-sea work — but not the pressures of impending fatherhood. While Jack dives deeper and deeper, he seems to pull further and further away from his young wife and their unborn son. Then one night, deep in the icy solitude of the ocean floor, Jack has a mysterious and supernatural encounter that will change the course of his life forever.
5. The Complete Persepolis
This is going to be one of the best graphic novels you will ever read. It’s an incredible story that will grip you. You might as well just book a couple of hours off in the day and finish it in one sitting.
Synopsis: Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up
6. The Encyclopaedia of Early Earth
This is going to be a really enjoyable read that will keep you curious and entertained throughout. It’s one of the graphic novels you will want to read when you are feeling a bit down and need to read something to bring your mood up.
Synopsis: Before our history began, another now forgotten civilization thrived. The people who roamed Early Earth were much like us: curious, emotional, funny, ambitious, and vulnerable. In this series of illustrated and linked tales, Isabel Greenberg chronicles the explorations of a young man as he paddles from his home in the North Pole to the South Pole. There, he meets his true love, but their romance is ill-fated. Early Earth’s unusual and finicky polarity means the lovers can never touch.
7. This One Summer
This is a very beautiful graphic novel. With some amazing illustration and a quiet, low-key plot. It’s one of the graphic novels that are worth reading if only for their artwork.
Synopsis: Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
8. The Dream House
An enjoyable tale which will leave you wanting a pet fox. You will be really pleased with this graphic novel, especially if you are a fan of The Sandman.
Synopsis: THE SANDMAN: THE DREAM HUNTERS is a comics adaptation of Gaiman’s original prose novella by the same name illustrated by Yoshitako Amano. This graphic novel was illustrated by the legendary P. Craig Russell. A humble young monk and a magical, shape-changing fox find themselves romantically drawn together. As their love blooms, the fox learns of a devilish plot by a group of demons and a Japanese emperor to steal the monk’s life. With the aid of Morpheus, the fox must use all of her cunning and creative thinking to foil this evil scheme and save the man that she loves.
Such a fun comic. It’s hilarious, it’s intelligent and it’s everything you can want from a comic.
Synopsis: Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! Not only is it the second title launching in our new BOOM! Box imprint but LUMBERJANES is one of those punk rock, love-everything-about-it stories that appeals to fans of basically all excellent things.
This is an autobiographical story, which really knows how to convey emotion through the images. It’s definitely one of the longer graphic novels, but a very rewarding read.
Synopsis: Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.
11. Box Office Poison
You’re either going to love it or hate it, but it’s definitely worth checking it out. If it sounds like you could relate to the characters, chances are, you’ll really enjoy it.
Synopsis: This epic story of Sherman, Dorothy, Ed, Stephen, Jane, and Mr. Flavor is not to be missed. Alex Robinson’s completely natural and inspiring knack for dialogue has made his story of dreary jobs, comic books, love, sex, messy apartments, girlfriends (and the lack thereof), undisclosed pasts, and crusty old professionals one of the most delightful and whimsical graphic novels to hit the stands in years
12. The Wicked + The Divine
A very interesting and well-set-up concept, with great, witty characters, who you’ll want more of. It’s a really enjoyable read and you’ll want to get the next one. And the artwork is great!
Synopsis: Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever
This is one of the most influential graphic novels and it’s a best-seller. It’s a great gateway into the genre. The story is thought-through, the characters are interesting and the artwork is great. What’s not to like?
Synopsis: This Hugo Award-winning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of super-heroes plagued by all-too-human failings. Along the way, the concept of the super-hero is dissected as the heroes are stalked by an unknown assassin.
14. Understanding Comics
I mean, Neil Gaiman said you should read it, so… It’s a really fun exploration of comics, which is going to be enjoyed not only by illustrators, but by anyone interested in graphic novels. It’s a good place to start if you want a little introductory read before you get into the narratives.
Synopsis: Praised throughout the cartoon industry by such luminaries as Art Spiegelman, Matt Groening, and Will Eisner, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is a seminal examination of comics art: its rich history, surprising technical components, and major cultural significance. Explore the secret world between the panels, through the lines, and within the hidden symbols of a powerful but misunderstood art form.
15. The Complete Maus
A great example of how powerful graphic novels can be. It’s one of the best graphic novels you will ever read and you should definitely take a look at it. Though you might want to also get a light read for when you finish it. To kind of lift your mood up a bit.
Synopsis: Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II – the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival – and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.
Often called the first comic book journalist, Sacco knows how to tell an important story in images. You should definitely check out his work. Two of his graphic novels can be found on this list, both are very good reads.
Synopsis: Based on several months of research and an extended visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the early 1990s (where he conducted over 100 interviews with Palestinians and Jews), Palestine was the first major comics work of political and historical nonfiction by Sacco, whose name has since become synonymous with this graphic form of New Journalism. Like Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine has been favorably compared to Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus for its ability to brilliantly navigate such socially and politically sensitive subject matter within the confines of the comic book medium.
17. Safe Area Goražde
The second Joe Sacco graphic novel on this list. This has to be one of the most moving books about war out there. The graphic aspect really made the story more impactful. An amazing choice of medium.
Synopsis: Safe Area Gorazde is the long-awaited and highly sought after 240-page look at war in the former Yugoslavia. Sacco (the critically-acclaimed author of Palestine) spent five months in Bosnia in 1996, immersing himself in the human side of life during wartime, researching stories that are rarely found in conventional news coverage. The book focuses on the Muslim-held enclave of Gorazde, which was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war. Sacco lived for a month in Gorazde, entering before the Muslims trapped inside had access to the outside world, electricity or running water. Safe Area Gorazde is Sacco’s magnum opus and with it he is poised too become one of America’s most noted journalists. The book features an introduction by Christopher Hitchens, political columnist for The Nation and Vanity Fair.
What are your favourite graphic novels? Share in the comments.
Featured image source: https://unsplash.com/photos/nUL9aPgGvgM
Currently going into her final year of English and Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. Gery has been writing in a personal blog since 2014 and has been published in publications StudentVoices and FictionHub on Medium. She debuted her first play 'Liminality' at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is already planning her next project.