Graphic novels I read (and recommend)

A combination of recommendations from an Ezra Klein and Rachel Maddow podcast, plus conversations with Scott Ashworth (who has an encyclopedic knowledge plus infectious enthusiasm for the comic) led me to a couple dozen graphic novels in the past few months. The best, in order:

  1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. Melodramatic teenager meets fantasy/sci-fi/comedy mashup. Won a “best book” recognition from just about every periodical you could name. Well deserved.
  2. Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine. Tales of humiliation and disappointment in people’s everyday lives. The graphic novel equivalent of a collection of sad short stories. That was a compliment.
  3. Queen & Country by Greg Rucka. If John Le Carre wrote a graphic novel, this might be what it looks like.
  4. Saga by Bryan Vaughan and Fiona Staples. A space opera. If you like space operas you will like this.
  5. V for Vendetta by Alan Moore & David Lloyd. I’d never read the anarchist classic and finally did, and loved it.
  6. Mind Mgmt by Matt Kindt. Conspiracy theories meet spy novel meet the paranormal.

I also enjoyed We3, Prophet, and Feynman, but not enough to recommend them so strongly.

More recommendations welcome.

19 thoughts on “Graphic novels I read (and recommend)

  1. Maybe check out “Sky Doll”, “Fables”. I only read the first chapter of Monstress, but it seemed promising. Transmetropolitan is also great.

    What about manga? Old Boy, Lone Wolf and Cub, Planetes, Mushishi, Eden, Me & the Devil Blues. 20th Century Boys and Pluto come to mind. Jiro Taniguchi might also be worth checking out.

  2. there’s an amazing piece of art and design called Phallaina (see link below) that is billed as “the first scrolling graphic novel” – and FULLY uses subtle, atmospheric sound, layers and pacing changes, and an intriguing story (re: neuroscience and mythical whale-human hybrids) to create something really remarkable.

  3. I think you had originally mentioned “The Unknown Soldier” in northern uganda, which is a decent book (not great) but actually utilizes the graphic novel format considerably better than some of the ones I have read since then. I read some of the standard ones (“Watchmen” and “Persepolis” were definitely very good, though not fantastic I thought; “Maus” lived up to the hype on the other hand) and a few others, including “Joe and Azat” which is a fun little read based on the Peace Corps.

    Then a few months ago I spent way too long reading blogs and reviews and ordered a bunch of books from amazon, only a few of which I’ve had time to read. Some already mentioned here: “Killing and Dying”, “Asterios Polyp”, and “Pyongyang” for example. Some not: “Safe Area Gorazde” (‘comic/graphic journalism’ about bosnia); “Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths” (japanese experience in WWII); and “Good-Bye” by Tatsumi (japanese post-war american ‘occupation’) so technically perhaps manga but basically the same idea.

    However my highest recommendation for now, especially given your recent post on being an immigrant, is “The Arrival” by Shaun Tan, which is completely wordless and wonderfully creative. I also got “The Sanctuary” by Nate Neal, which involves cavemen speaking in a basic language that the reader apparently slowly learns, but haven’t read it yet.

    I’ll look up the ones you recommend (I think “Saga” was on my honorable mention list, and maybe “V for Vendetta”) and some that other commenters recommend, and then hopefully write an update on my own blog in a year after reading most of them…

  4. If you like Vaughan, it’s hard to go wrong with Y: The Last Man. A global pandemic wipes out every mammal with a Y chromosome, except for one escape artist and his capuchin monkey. Interesting (if sometimes fantastical) look at what a world without men would look like – also refuses to be pigeonholed into standard apocalyptic fiction. Perhaps less mature than Saga, but less inclined to shock for the sake of shocking.