Graphic novels are an underappreciated storytelling medium. Most people equate them to comic books, and thus brush them off as not “real” books. However, graphic novels and comic books differ in many ways, one reason being their length. Despite that, graphic novels remain as one of the best ways to tell stories that range from memoirs to fantasy and everything in between, since the author has both language and art at their disposal. If you’re looking to dive into this underrated medium, here are ten graphic novels to sink your teeth into.
1. I Kill Giants
Fifth-grader Barbara Thorson kills giants for a living, or at least that’s what she’ll tell you. In reality, she is a sharp-tongued, Dungeons-And-Dragons-playing social outcast. This enlightening and tender graphic novel by Joe Kelly challenges the line between fiction and reality. By showing how kids often use their imagination to cope with real-life trauma, Kelly makes the reader question what is truly real to the troubled Barbara.
2. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir
Thi Bui was born in war-torn Vietnam and was one of the “boat people” who escaped the country with her family in search of a better life. In this emotional memoir, Bui explores her feelings about immigration, displacement, and what home means to her through the lens of becoming a parent. The book follows her attempt to record her family’s history, and in doing so, she discovers what it truly means to sacrifice everything you know in search of a better life.
3. The Golden Age
Princess Tilda is on the run. Exiled on the evening of her coronation by a group of power-hungry lords led by her younger brother, she now must travel through her kingdom, where suffering is the way of life, in secret. Throughout her journey, the destitute common folk whisper of an era long lost to time where people were free from strife. In a whirlwind of turmoil, political intrigue, and revolution, Tilda must find a way to reclaim the throne that is rightfully hers.
For Christophe André, working as a Doctors Without Borders administrator is his life. Until one night in 1997, when André is kidnapped in the dead of night by a group of armed men. André’s story, told almost 20 years after the fact by cartoonist Guy Delisle, is one that shows the reader what drives someone to survive. The harrowing experience of being kept in solitary confinement is not one that many experience in their lifetime, but the difficult questions and feelings that arise out of such a situation will strike a chord with every reader.
In a matriarchal world inspired by 20th century Asia, Maika Halfwolf thirsts for answers and revenge. Her world is torn by a war between magical creatures called Arcanics and sorceresses called the Cumaea who consume Arcanics for power. Maika is an Arcanic on the hunt for information about her mother’s death, trying to survive past the trauma of war and the mysterious link she has to a powerful demonic entity. With little control over this demon, their connection has the power to change them both, or bring ruin to all.
Shapeshifting, supervillains, and symbolism await readers in She-Ra And The Princesses Of Power showrunner Noelle Stevenson’s science-fiction and fantasy tale. The titular Nimona is an impulsive shapeshifter and sidekick to the villainous Lord Ballister Blackheart. Their goal? Wreak havoc and convince the kingdom that the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics isn’t to be admired. As their battle against the so-called “heroes” grows, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s past and powers are murky at best, and her unpredictability could be the downfall of them all.
Three years spent in Milan gave Matteo the life he had always dreamed about. That is, until his boyfriend breaks up with him, forcing Matteo to move back to the provincial Italian town where he grew up. Afraid of encountering his estranged, conservative father, Matteo rather elects to move in with his extended family as he tries to rebuild his life. In this tale of acceptance, tolerance, and commitment, author Flavia Biondi shows the reader what it means to confront the truth about yourself and others.
8. The Umbrella Academy
If you’ve watched season one of Netflix‘s adaptation over and over again in anticipation for season two, try picking up the graphic novel that started it all. The Umbrella Academy follows the lives of the once-famous Hargreeves family, a group of superpowered “siblings” brought together by eccentric billionaire Reginald Hargreeves. Throughout the three volumes, the Hargreeves siblings must face a zombie-robot Gustave Eiffel (yes, you read that right), the apocalypse, and their own family drama.
Between a series of brutal murders and the mysterious Lady Hellaine’s arrival, the small mining village of Woodsburgh can’t catch a break. Readers must deduce what Lady Hellaine’s true motives are, all while the threat of the Woodsburgh Devil looms above the once-peaceful town. This Victorian gothic-horror series by Mirka Andolfo is rife with unrest, mystery, and suspicion, as the series is packed with twists that will keep your head spinning.
10. Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir
Author Tom Hart lost his daughter at two years old, and Rosalie Lightning was his response. In this loving yet heartbreaking tribute, Hart and his wife explore what meaning life has in store for them after their devastating loss. From grief and hopelessness to rebirth and regaining hope, Hart’s feelings are laid out for all to see. If nothing else, Rosalie Lightning is a masterpiece that depicts a father’s everlasting love, one that will bring tears to your eyes as you close the book.