10 Best Graphic Novels Any Newcomer To Comics Should Read
With comic book movies having dominated the box office for the past decade, interest in comic books has also increased. Many fans of these franchises are now turning to the comics to see more adventures featuring their favorite characters from the movies and TV shows.
However, getting into comics can be quite difficult, especially with series that have decades of continuity behind them, like the books from Marvel and DC. Luckily, there are plenty of graphic novels out there that don’t require any prior knowledge, but still provide gripping stories within their illustrated pages.
by Craig Thompson Blankets follows the author’s experiences over two periods: growing up with his brother in a strict Christian family and falling in love for the first time. It combines to tell a story of how Thompson strayed from his family’s faith.
Autobiographical comics are a staple of the medium, but Thompson’s story has a confessional edge, giving readers a startling insight into what it was like growing up in a strict family and just how complicated it was for Thompson. to fall in love because of this. Thompson’s expressionist artwork also brilliantly communicates the mood of each scene in a way that only comics can.
Fun House (2006)
Alison Bechdel produced some of the best LGBTQ+ graphic novels in comics history, and fun house has garnered massive critical attention since its release. Half memory, half biography of a distant father, fun house traces Bechdel’s parallel realization of his and her father’s sexuality.
Bechdel’s narrative not only revolves around sexuality, but also how social pressure forces individuals to conform to certain labels or be excluded entirely, which has resulted in the very unfun home environment of Bechdel. The fact that the story is set against the backdrop of gay liberation and the AIDS crisis only adds to its depth.
Country of God (2017)
Donny Cates caused a stir at Marvel Comics with Thanos and his three-year run on Venom produced some of the best Venom issues of the 2010s. However, it first caught the attention of mainstream comics with this series about a demented Texan grandfather who comes into contact with a mystical sword, drawing the wrath of an ancient alien race.
On its surface, country of god is simply a superhero origin story with the twist of a Texas setting. In fact, it’s a powerful story about family and the desire to leave a legacy that will last longer than one’s life. Initially published in 6 issues, the collection country of god reads like a well-paced movie, with its incredibly resonant ending.
Mars: Book One (2013)
The first in a trilogy of graphic novels chronicling the civil rights movement through the eyes of U.S. Representative John Lewis, March: first book follows Lewis’ childhood, intercut with scenes of his involvement in civil rights protests as well as his experience on the day of Barack Obama’s first inauguration.
Already a powerful story when it was published in 2013, the book has become even more relevant in the wake of new voting rights restrictions and protests against police brutality. Taken with the late 2010s, the book is a reminder of the progress that has been made, but also how vital it is to both maintain it and continue to push for a just and fair society.
Art Spiegelman’s most famous work has become the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It follows Spiegelman’s father’s horrific experiences during the Holocaust, while also describing Spiegelman’s interviews with his father, research done to create this book.
Maus is not a story to brighten someone’s day, but as March, it is a necessary history, which shows the devastating and deadly consequences of those in power who use a minority group both as a scapegoat and as a justification for obtaining and exercising power. Maus was the first mainstream work of non-fiction comics, and it advocated for comics exploring serious real-world issues, cementing its place as a pivotal work in the canon of great graphic novels.
Although not a standalone graphic novel, the first volume of Saga requires no prior reading and may be the best opener for any comic book series currently in publication. In Saga, A warring alien couple have a child and must flee from the authorities chasing him.
Saga carries powerful themes of parenthood, racism, the costs of war, and the beauty of human nature’s flaws, while delivering a compelling and continuing adventure story in its own right. Writer Brian K. Vaughan knows how to write with end goals in mind, so everything in Saga has permanent repercussions. The series also benefits from the beautiful illustrations of Fiona Staples.
This serious take on superheroes begins as a murder mystery, but quickly evolves into a story of power and what superheroes would be like in the real world. watchmen changed comics forever with its existential quotes and deep characterization and is the most groundbreaking superhero comic since Superman’s debut.
As one of the most acclaimed comics of all time, watchmen is far from an obscure book, but since superheroes are now as common on our screens as they are in watchmen, this book is perhaps even more captivating today than it was 35 years ago. For readers not yet into the Batman or Spider-Man books, this graphic novel is a great entry into the comic book superhero genre.
Superman: Red Son (2003)
What if the all-American Man of Steel had landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas? It is the premise of Superman: Red Son, a reimagining of the Superman story that features him becoming the mascot of communism in the other Cold War superpower.
What’s fascinating about this comic is how it takes the superhero associated with the fight for “truth, justice, and the American way” (where her American nature is so much a part of her character that she’s become a cliche of Superman), and plants him in a completely different environment. It certainly provides a fun “what if?” story for Superman and DC Comics fans, but it also fascinates as an examination of the nature of Superman iconography.
Understanding Comics (1993)
Scott McCloud’s non-fiction examination of the comic book medium may not sound like a graphic novel, but it is. Not only does it come in the form of comics, but it also acts to tell a very specific story: the development of comics and what makes comics what they are in the first place.
McCloud’s analysis goes beyond simply being instructive, creating a truly eye-opening account of a medium that captured the imagination of 20th-century readers everywhere. It has a built-in appeal for those who already read comics, but for newcomers it convincingly illustrates the potential of the comic medium and its artistic uniqueness.
A Second Chance for Sarah (2010)
Neil Druckmann is best known for his work on Naughty Dog’s Unexplored and The last of us series of video games, but in the midst of his work on Uncharted 2, he teamed up with artist Joysuke Wong to create this story of a man who travels back in time to stop his wife from making a deal with a demon.
The comic features Wong’s dreamlike, impressionistic art style that fits well with the magical realism of the story’s premise, drawing readers into the perspective of the main character, Johnny. Druckmann’s writing is also top notch, reminding any reader who has played either The last of us Where Uncharted 4 of the treatment of the family by these games and of what one is ready to do for love.
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