23 Best Fantasy Graphic Novels
There’s still a stigma to reading graphic novels. As a grown man, I wouldn’t do it in public. However, at home, I love them and I encourage my kid to read every one he gets his hands on.
At their best, graphic novels combine deep, thoughtful storytelling with real works of art. I’m glad to see that great comics are still being written and drawn (and inked and colored).
23. Sacred Creatures
by Pablo Raimondi – 2017
Book 1 of 6 in the Sacred Creatures series
When the supernatural forces maintaining the fragile balance of power in the world start to unravel, Josh Miller, a young college grad and expectant father, is caught in the middle of a vast conspiracy threatening to tear apart the foundations of humanity as we know it.
As myth and reality collide, Josh finds himself on the frontline of a battle against an enemy dating back to the beginning of time itself.
22. Kill 6 Billion Demons
by Tom Parkinson-Morgan – 2016
Book 1 of 3 in the Kill 6 Billion Demons series
Sorority sister Allison Ruth must travel to Throne, the ancient city at the center of the multiverse, in an epic bid to save her boyfriend from the clutches of the seven evil kings that rule creation.
21. The Dark
by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith – 2009
Book 1 of 5 in The Stuff of Legend series
The year is 1944. As Allied forces fight the enemy on Europe’s war-torn beaches, another battle begins in a child’s bedroom in Brooklyn. When the nightmarish Boogeyman snatches a boy and takes him to the realm of the Dark, the child’s playthings, led by the toy soldier known as the Colonel, band together to stage a daring rescue.
On their perilous mission they will confront the boy’s bitter and forgotten toys, as well as betrayal in their own ranks. Can they save the boy from the forces of evil, or will they all perish in the process?
20. One Weird Trick
by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarksy – 2013
Book 1 of 5 in the Sex Criminals series
Suzie’s just a regular gal with an irregular gift: when she has sex, she stops time. One day she meets Jon and it turns out he has the same ability. And sooner or later they get around to using their gifts to do what we’d all do: rob a couple of banks.
19. Castle Waiting
by Linda Medley – 2006
Book 1 of 2 in the Castle Waiting series
Castle Waiting is the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life.
A fable for modern times, it is a fairy tale that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil—but about being a hero in your own home.
The castle is abandoned by its princess when she rides off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. It then becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary, playing host to a lively and colorful cast of characters that inhabits the subsequent stories, including a talking anthropomorphic horse, a mysteriously pregnant Lady on the run, and a bearded nun.
Blending elements from a variety of sources—fairy tales, folklore, nursery rhymes—Medley tells the story of the everyday lives of fantastic characters.
by Mike Carey – 2001
Book 1 of 5 in the Lucifer series
Cast out of Heaven, thrown down to rule in Hell, Lucifer Morningstar has resigned his post and abandoned his kingdom for the mortal city of Los Angeles. Emerging from the pages of writer Neil Gaiman’s award-winning series The Sandman, the former Lord of Hell is now enjoying a quiet retirement as the proprietor of Lux, L.A.’s most elite piano bar.
But now an assignment from the Creator Himself is going to change all that.
If Lucifer agrees to do Heaven’s dirty work, he can name his own price—but both the task and reward are more than they seem. Thrown into a position of great threat and ultimate opportunity, Lucifer knows that threading a path through this maze will require the harshest of sacrifices.
17. Rice Boy
by Evan Dahm – 2013
In this surreal and underrated story, a lonely creature called Rice Boy and an ageless machine called The One Electronic venture through a strange world to fulfill a prophecy with implications few understand.
by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda – 2016
Book 1 of 4 in the Monstress series
Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, Monstress tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.
15. Mouse Guard
by David Petersen – 2006
Book 1 of 8 in the Mouse Guard series
In the world of Mouse Guard, mice struggle to live safely and prosper amongst harsh conditions and a host of predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed: more than just soldiers that fight off intruders, they are guides for common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one hidden village to another.
The Guard patrol borders, find safe paths through dangerous territories and treacherous terrain, watch weather patterns, and keep the mouse territories free of predatory infestation. They do so with fearless dedication so that they might not just exist, but truly live.
Saxon, Kenzie, and Lieam, three such Guardsmice, are dispatched to find a missing merchant mouse that never arrived at his destination. Their search for the missing mouse reveals much more than they expect, as they stumble across a traitor in the Guard’s own ranks.
14. Sass and Sorcery
by Kurtis J. Wiebe – 2014
Book 1 of 7 in the Rat Queens series
The Rat Queens are a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit.
This darkly comic series stars Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric, and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief.
13. Black Hole
by Charles Burns – 1995
Winner of the Eisner award
Suburban Seattle, the mid-1970s. A strange plague has descended upon the area’s teenagers, transmitted by sexual contact. The disease is manifested in any number of ways—from the hideously grotesque to the subtle (and concealable)—but once you’ve got it, that’s it. There’s no turning back.
As we inhabit the heads of several key characters—some kids who have it, some who don’t, some who are about to get it—what unfolds isn’t the expected battle to fight the plague, or bring heightened awareness to it, or even to treat it. A fascinating and eerie portrait of the nature of high school alienation itself: the savagery, the cruelty, the relentless anxiety and ennui, the longing for escape.
And then the murders start.
12. Welcome to Lovecraft
by Joe Hill – 2008
Book 1 of 7 in the Locke & Key series
Keyhouse is a New England mansion with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. It is also home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all.
by Garth Ennis – 1996
Book 1 of 6 in the Preacher series
Merging with a bizarre spiritual force called Genesis, Texan Preacher Jesse Custer becomes completely disillusioned with the beliefs that he had dedicated his entire life to. Now possessing the power of “the word,” an ability to make people do whatever he utters, Custer begins a violent and riotous journey across the country.
Joined by his gun-toting girlfriend Tulip and the hard-drinking Irish vampire Cassidy, the Preacher loses faith in both man and God as he witnesses dark atrocities and improbable calamities during his exploration of America.
10. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
by Bryan Lee O’Malley – 2005
Book 2 of 6 in the Scott Pilgrim series
Does Scott and Ramona’s burgeoning relationship have a future? Isn’t Scott still supposedly dating Knives Chau? Who is Ramona’s second evil ex-boyfriend, and why is he in Toronto?
Who are The Clash At Demonhead, and what kind of bizarre art-punky music do they play? Who’s their hot girl keyboardist, and what is Scott’s relation to her? Why is The Clash At Demonhead Knives Chau’s new favorite band? Fights! Drama! Secrets revealed! The answers to all these questions and more!
9. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
by Hayao Miazaki – 1982
Book 1 of 7 in the Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind series
This manga is by famed animator Hayao Miazaki, creator of such epics as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, and Princess Mononoke. He’s amazing.
Nausicaä, a young princess, has an empathic bond with the giant Ohmu insects and animals of every creed. She fights to create tolerance, understanding, and patience among empires that are fighting over the world’s remaining precious natural resources.
8. Phoebe and Her Unicorn
by Dana Smith – 2014
Book 1 of 11 in the Phoebe and Her Unicorn series
Everyone in our family loves this comic strip. It’s the closest thing I’ve even seen to Calvin and Hobbes, while being completely original. Strongly recommended.
It all started when a girl named Phoebe skipped a rock across a pond and accidentally hit a unicorn in the face. Improbably, this led to Phoebe being granted one wish, and she used it to make the unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, her obligatory best friend. But can a vain mythical beast and a nine-year-old daydreamer really forge a connection? (Yes.)
7. Original Sins
by Jamie Delano – 1997
Book 1 of 24 in the Hellblazer series
First appearing in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing series, John Constantine is a chain-smoking wizard, a wildly anti-authoritarian, sneering punk, who cares for people much more than he wants to. He’s Gandalf covered in the tar of big-city noir.
6. Madly Ever After
by Skottie Young – 2015
Book 1 of 9 in the I Hate Fairyland series
Meet Gert, a woman who has been stuck in the magical world of Fairyland for nearly thirty years—in a six-year-old’s body.
She had her psychotic break quite a while ago, and now she’s really good at it and also has a giant battleaxe. It’s a cheerful, blood-soaked rampage through a jolly wonderland.
5. Legends in Exile
by Bill Willingham – 2002
Book 1 of 21 in the Fables series
The Fables series has won 14 Eisner awards.
When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society they called Fabletown.
From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world.
by Bryan K. Vaughan – 2012
Book 1 of 9 in the Saga series
In this combination of fantasy and science fiction, two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, and risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.
3. Seed of Destruction
by Mike Mignola – 1994
Book 1 of 16 in the Hellboy series
I’m a huge fan of Hellboy and almost everything Mike Mignola puts out.
Ripped from Hell as a wee child demon by Nazi occultists, Hellboy, who has a giant stone right hand, is raised by a kindly eccentric professor. The professor builds a group of people with strange abilities to battle the unending tide of monsters plaguing humanity.
One of the big draws of Hellboy is his aw-crap blue-collar practicality about his job and himself.
2. Preludes and Nocturnes
by Neil Gaiman – 1989
Book 1 of 10 in the Sandman series
An occultist attempts to capture Death to bargain for eternal life, but instead 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.
Sandman is one of the most satisfying and original comic series in existence. Preludes and Nocturnes is a little uneven in places, but stick with it, and read the other nine volumes. My personal favorite is volume four, Season of Mists, where Lucifer quits Hell, and Morpheus is tasked finding a new ruler.
1. Out from Boneville
by Jeff Smith – 1991
Book 1 of 9 in the Bone series
After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins—Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone—are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert. One by one, they find their way into a deep, forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures.
Eventually, the cousins are reunited at a farmstead run by tough Gran’ma Ben and her spirited granddaughter, Thorn. But little do the Bones know, there are dark forces conspiring against them and their adventures are only just beginning!