This is as good a place as any to catalog what I think are the best graphic novels I’ve read to date (there’s that qualifier), some more comic-book in format, other’s more literary. All of them tell good stories first, even when the focus is more on the art. And, where art failed, the story kept me reading.
The Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa
A beautiful story about a father running ahead of 3 shadows who mean to take his son. Heartbreaking and redemptive.
Girl Genius series (ongoing) by Phil and Kaja Foglio
A powder keg barrel of fun, with rich, crazy art that I would have longed for as a kid, if I’d known where to find it, and a complicated zany story. The boys are schmart, but the Girl Genius has–or is–the Spark. Best experienced in print, in the separate volumes (not the B&W omnibus versions), but also available completely online (with a new page added every MWF). It’s been running for several years, with 10 volumes in print.
Super Spy by Matt Kindt
Interwoven short stories about spies set during WW2. Many are civilians pressed into “service.” There aren’t many happy endings, but the stories are rich and thoughtful and feel true, and the title character provides a little comic relief.
The Essex County Trilogy by Jeff Lemire
The lives of two brothers in Ontario, Canada. Sparse, beautiful, about what we want and settle for, out of circumstance and acceptance. One panel often tells more than several pages in most novels. Read them in order.
- Tales From the Farm
- Ghost Stories
- The Country Nurse
The Nobody by Jeff Lemire
Where the Invisible Man really went and what happened to him afterward.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
Told without words, a story of immigration, through the immigrants eyes.
Others you might appreciate (I did)
Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines
Beautiful, elusive. It turns out that if we could talk like the animals, we’d be more thoughtful on a regular basis. No less criminal, though.
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation by Michael Keller and Nicolle Rager Fuller
I would put this in my list of favorites for the art alone, but it gets a bit dry and light at times. I don’t blame the author–there’s a lot to cover, weaving story and discovery and aspects of evolution in one go. It’s not Evolution for Dummies, though. Not for rubes who believe that the Earth is 40k years old and that dinosaurs were the ants at human picnics.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
An adolescent Jewish girl does what everyone says is for boys only, only her way. It’s set in a remote orthodox community away in the woods.
The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
Lovely and sad and full of books, hiding a lot of story under the surface.
Mouse Guard series by David Petersen
It’s an epic and brave story across slight but beautiful volumes. Don’t confuse it with Redwall.
Fables series by Bill Willingham
13+ comic-style books telling the real adult story about fairy and folk tale creatures and how they came to be in our reality. They aren’t from our universe and it’s complicated. Warning: Anyone who harbors warm feelings for Pinocchio’s Geppetto should turn away.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series by Alan Moore
This is not the guilty pleasure movie with Sean Connery. It’s weirder and more interesting.
The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman
Probably one of the most famous graphic novel series. The writing and overall plot make up for the sometimes flat art. It’s an expose on immortal family politics and a pretty darn good story.
32 Stories : The Complete Optic Nerve Mini-Comics by Adrian Tomine
Tomine’s character’s may drive you crazy, but he knows how to say alot with a few gestures. His followups do more of the same, perhaps better. But 32 Stories (his earliest, I think) is riskier and I liked it best.
Bone, a series by Jeff Smith
Imagine Pogo (if that rings an old tarnished bell) set in a world of wizards and warriors. If you like this, you might like the adventures of Cerebus the smart ass mercenary aardvark chronicled in many fat volumes from 1977 to 2004. Or vice versa.
Persepolis 1 and 2 by Marjane Satrapi
This one’s famous and was made into an animated film. If nothing else, read it to learn more about life in Iran through the eyes of a girl as she grows up during the transition from swing town capitalism to fundamentalism and the war with Iraq.
Epileptic by David B.
How a boy grows up and learns to learn from his older epileptic brother and his parents’ constant search for lifestyle choices (often around diet) that will help the older brother, usually at the expense of the younger. It’s a fat and rich and worth reading.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
More dysfunction worth reading.
Hard Boiled, sometimes crazed, often Over the Top Rough Stuff
Transmetropolitan and Planetary series (among others) by Warren Ellis
Tumor by Joshua Fialkov
Sleeper and Incognito by Ed Brubaker