I’ve done a graphic novels recommendation post before but when I was looking over it again, it was severely lacking and I’ve been reading so many more graphic novels within the past year or so. So here’s an updated version. I wholeheartedly recommend all of these. I find that graphic novels are so great for reading slumps or if you don’t have a lot of time like you’re waiting for your late friend to come pick you up or you’re waiting for people to hurry the fuck up even though they said they were ready 20 minutes ago, a graphic novel is perfect for that in between time. But it’s also perfect for a rainy day when you just want to stare at beautiful artwork. Bear in mind though that I don’t really know a thing about art so if my descriptions of art are off, that’s why.
*All pictures are not my own unless otherwise stated.
Dark Fairytale Retellings
Fables (Series) by Bill Willingham & others
Type of Artwork: Comic Book Style, Ink and pencil
Read if you like: Fairy Tales (Duh), Mystery, Crime, Gritty Worldbuilding
I really enjoyed the culmination of finding all your favorite fairy tale characters portrayed in a way that that makes then less than perfect people. There’s also a android/apple game based on this series. I review both here.
Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet
Translated by: Helge Dascher
Read if you like: Dark Subversion of Fairytales
Type of Artwork: Watercolor, Cartoon, Realistic landscape and animal drawings
This French graphic novel starts off all cute and fuzzy but then quickly spirals into an existential and symbolic subversion of fairy tales and their tropes before you realize what you’re even reading. It actually is quite violent and graphic at times; it almost feels like fairytales written by a horror author. It will leave you wondering what the fuck you just read but it was still very memorable to me.
Descenders (series) by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen
Type of Artwork: Watercolor
Read if you like: Star Wars, Pacific Rim, Mini Robot Companions, classic adventure character tropes: the underdog, the mentor etc. etc.
Although it doesn’t boast anything particularly new or original, Descenders is for those scifi fans who want a little comfort food or even those who want to get more into science fiction and love the plot of a scifi opera. There’s a little bit of mystery but also has a bigger, more epic plot that plays out in the next installments.
Sweet Tooth (Series) by Jeff Lemire
Type of Artwork: Ink, Realistic color scheme
Read if you like: Person-traveling-alone-to-find-paradise stories, post-apocalyptic, stories about genetic manipulation
After his father dies, Gus, a human/animal hybrid travels across post-epidemic America to find a refuge for hybrids to live in peace. The first volume is spent mostly traveling but it’s partly coming of age where Gus, an innocent soul, learns about the world around him. What I enjoyed about this more than other post-apocalyptic novels is the addition of scifi and a dystopian atmosphere.
Harrow County by Cullen Bunn & Tyler Cook
Type of Artwork: Watercolor, Gradient shading
Read if you like: witches, horror, small towns
The story is readable but the true standout of this novel is the fabulous artwork. It just makes everything a little more fluid but compact and little more scarier.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughn
Type of Artwork: Saturated, Contrast, Realistic Colors but occasionally uses a monochrome color palette
Read if you like: Stranger Things, Ensemble Casts, the ’80s, time travel, scifi creatures
So instead of a bunch of boys and one girl exploring the suburbs together, it’s a group of girls all distinct and all really sassy. They discover super cool supernatural creatures and time travel contraptions in a break neck and action-packed plot.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
Type of Artwork: Monochrome Palette of Purples and Grays
Read if you like: Slice-of-life, ambiguous endings, feminist commentary, friendship, family
One of the criticisms of this novel is that it doesn’t have a clear-cut conclusion but it’s actually something I like about it. It’s literally about following two friends one summer. It’s a very quiet, melancholic look at family and friends and what it means to grow up as a girl.
Skim by Mariko and Jilian Tamaki
Type of Artwork: Ink Brush, Black and White
Read if you like: high school coming of age
A student commits suicide and this is the story of how another student grows up. She deals with family and friends. It’s a very slow story as can be expected from a Tamaki author and delves into everything from weight to suicide to depression.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
Type of Artwork: Cartoon, No Shading
Read if you like: Children’s stories, children’s coming-of-age
El Deafo uses anamorphic characters to portray a sense of innocence and relatability. It’s a memoir about a girl who is deaf as she navigates first friendships and things like that. In the novel, her hearing aids are attached to a box which looks really big and bulky and although technology has caught up and hearing aids are a lot smaller and compatible now, it doesn’t undermine the same feelings of being different and self-conscious that most, if not all kids go through. It is also fluffy and light so it’s easily readable for kids too.
Lumberjanes (series) by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Waters, Brooke A. Allen
Type of Artwork: Digital Cartoon, Bright Colors
Read if you like: Friendship, Ensemble casts, cartoon animation shows
This is the definition of a cute and fun pick-me-up. It’s nothing too insightful but it will make you want to have adventures out in the woods with your best friends. Camping and girl scouts has never looked more appealing.
March Vol. 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Ayon, Nate Powell
Type of Artwork: Black, Gray, and White Colors, Sketchy
Read if you are interested in: Civil Rights Movement
This is a memoir about Lewis’s experiences being at the forefront of the Civil Rights movements from training others to how to participate at restaurant stand-ins. The novel starts when Lewis is meeting Obama and he recounts his past living in an era of intense racism where even his given rights were attacked. It felt so incredibly heartbreaking because this happened in recent memory and it seems like it’s happening now.
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
Type of Artwork: Cartoon, Photographs
Read if you like: weddings, wedding trivia, first-world problems
Lucy Knisley wrote this book about planning her wedding while actually planning her wedding. She talks about the societal pressures and expectations of planning her wedding and weddings in general. I really liked how she deconstructs wedding myths and expectations and strives to make her wedding her own. For example, she avoided the sexist tradition of having your father walk you down the aisle by having both her and her husband’s parents walk both of them down the aisle. She also talks about her own love story, how she met her husband and their relationship. This might be the epitome of first-world problems but it was still pretty inspiring.
Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh
Translated by: Ivanka Hahnenberger
Type of Artwork: Watercolor, Monochrome Palette of Grays and Blues
Read if you like: first love, relationship stories, discovering sexuality
Clementine is both a coming-of-age story and a story about her relationship with Emma. I love the gradual buildup of this relationship as well as the slow discovery of Clementine’s sexuality while grappling with her identity and of the expectations around her. Only Clementine’s hair is blue throughout highlights the isolation but also the excitement of distinguishing your identity.
Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic
Type of Artwork: Digital, Cartoon-Realistic
Read if you like: Romance, Romantic Comedies, Erotica
This is a romantic comedy about two women who meet online and subsequently start a loving, caring, but steamy BDSM relationship. It’s half about finding someone who shares the same kinks as you but also the fears and anxiety of meeting someone in person that you’ve only interacted with online which I thought were handled well. It follows a standard romantic comedy formula so it’s a lot cuter than you might expect. The two girls, although not as fleshed out as I would like, still relatable and endearing.