Yes, Graphic Novels Are “Real Books”—Here Are 10 Incredible Ones to Add to Your Bookshelf
Last week, S.E. Hinton, author of the well-known YA series The Outsiders, made a condescending and obtuse remark on the validity of graphic novels on her Twitter.
Naturally, Twitter went ablaze and swiftly set Hinton straight—but it’s still worth remembering that, whether or not you may personally believe it to be so, graphic novels are real books with literary merit and worthy of respect.
Many reluctant readers experience their first foray into literature through graphic novels, and the medium itself opens up an entire new world of accessibility for many who may be otherwise unable to fully immerse themselves in novels—not to mention, the different ways in which storytelling can be filtered only expands the imagination and increases the opportunity for a story to reach audiences of all shapes and sizes.
So, with that being said, here are 10 exceptionally good Graphic Novels that you should definitely add to your TBR list—and recommend to anyone who still dares scoff at the legitimacy and fun of the medium:
1. Maus by Art Spiegelman
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. Maus approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive.
Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in “drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust” (The New York Times).
2. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, Jose Marzan
“Y” is none other than unemployed escape artist Yorick Brown (his father was a Shakespeare buff), and he’s seemingly the only male human left alive after a mysterious plague kills all Y-chromosome carriers on earth. But why are he and his faithful companion, the often testy male monkey Ampersand, still alive?
He sets out to find the answer (and his girlfriend), while running from angry female Republicans (now running the government), Amazon wannabes that include his own sister (seemingly brainwashed), and other threats.
3. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore, David Lloyd
A powerful story about loss of freedom and individuality, V FOR VENDETTA takes place in a totalitarian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet.
In a world without political freedom or personal freedom, and precious little faith in anything, comes a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask who fights political oppressors through terrorism and seemingly absurd acts. It’s a gripping tale of the blurred lines between ideological good and evil.
4. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.
From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.
5. March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.
Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations
6. Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
The richly imagined world of MONSTRESS is an alternate matriarchal 1900s Asia, with an art deco-infused steampunk aesthetic that’s brimming with arcane dangers. Within it, a teenage girl struggles to overcome the trauma of war, a task that’s made all the more difficult by her mysterious psychic link to an eldritch monster of tremendous power―a connection that will transform them both, and place them in the crosshairs of both human and otherworldly powers.
7. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith
New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.
In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey, Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.
8. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.
9. Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen
FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!
At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.
10. Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu
Helloooo, Internet Land. Bitty here!
Y’all… I might not be ready for this. I may be a former junior figure skating champion, vlogger extraordinaire, and very talented amateur pâtissier, but being a freshman on the Samwell University hockey team is a whole new challenge. It’s nothing like co-ed club hockey back in Georgia! First of all? There’s checking. And then, there is Jack—our very attractive but moody captain.
A collection of the first half of the megapopular webcomic series of the same name, Check, Please!: #Hockey is the first book of a hilarious and stirring two-volume coming-of-age story about hockey, bros, and trying to find yourself during the best four years of your life.
(featured image: Vertigo, First Second)
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