2021 Staff Picks: Graphic Novels
Our expert staff members look back at the year and share their favorite titles.
Squad2021 by Tokuda-Hall, MaggieGet this item
I felt this was hip enough for teen fans of Riverdale and Teen Wolf, but also smarter and more fun. It’s empowering and gutsy with just enough delicious pettiness to remind me more of Heathers. Tokuda-Hall’s keen observations of high school privilege, pressures, and prey are stunningly (and often sadly) accurate, and the queer love story made me very happy. Recommended by Grace.
Spy Island: A Bermuda Triangle Mystery2021 by Cain, ChelseaGet this item
Killer mermaids! Assassin mimes! Cocktail recipes! Chelsea Cain is my favorite graphic novel creator because she brings a razor sharp feminist lens and acerbic wit to comic book tropes, which makes old clichés feel fresh and fun again. Spy Island is a brilliant mash-up of James Bond-style spies and Bermuda Triangle supernatural nonsense. I would watch the heck out of a premium cable series that takes place in this universe! Recommended by Jane.
Nubia: Real One2021 by McKinney, L. L.Get this item
I loved how this superhero origin story celebrates Black Girl Magic. Recommended by Rummanah.
The Department of Truth: Volume 1, Issue 1-5, The End of the World2021 by Tynion, JamesGet this item
This book about belief in conspiracies is amazing and very timely. It's horrifying in more than one way. The art is superb, too. Recommended by Rachael.
Die: Volume 3, Issue 11-15, The Great Game2020 by Gillen, KieronGet this item
Die has always hit me really hard with its exploration of grown-up gamers forced to confront what they leave behind when they choose adult reality over teenage fantasy (or vice versa). This geeky, goth rock opera starring your favorite authors from English Lit 101 spins up to new heights in this latest volume, where the epic endgame is finally staged and the pieces are placed on the board for their final moves. Recommended by Jane.
Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness2021 by Radtke, KristenGet this item
Months after its release, we still can't shake this stunning graphic meditation on loneliness. Though it doesn't address the pandemic, it perfectly captures the current moment with luminous drawings and an expansive narrative touching on social science, history, and memoir. Recommended by Annabelle and Chris.
Run2021 by Lewis, JohnGet this item
After he marched, he ran. This is the story of what happened after the Civil Rights Act got passed, when coalitions fell apart (and were sabotaged). I think this story needs to be heard and understood right now. We have been waiting for what seems like forever for the follow-up to the March graphic novel series and Run did not disappoint. Recommended by Denise and Rachael.
Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms2021 by Frasier, CrystalGet this item
This graphic novel brought me so much joy and a huge smile on my face. If you love Heartstopper by Alice Oseman or Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu, definitely check this out. Recommended by Rummanah.
HEAVEN OFFICIAL'S BLESSING 1: TIAN GUAN CI FU2021 by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu/ Zeldacw (ILT)Get this item
Pining! People choosing to be kind despite everything! Intensely soft romance in the middle of an intensely not-soft plot! Finally an official English translation! We love this book/these books (it's sort of one, but it's like a million words long, so it's getting split up). Recommended by Penny and Perry.
Trese: Unreported Murders. Volume 22021 by Tan, BudjetteGet this item
Creators in the Philippines have been making amazing comics for decades, but they have rarely gotten distribution in the US. This series fuses folklore and noir together for a unique monster-hunting universe. Really fun. Volume 1 is also on Hoopla. Recommended by Rachael.
Bandette2013 by Tobin, PaulGet this item
Zut! J'adore Bandette! This series, and especially this long-awaited fourth volume, are just delightful--and we all need delights in these tough times. A sweetheart master thief, fueled by French pastries and friendship, traipsing over Paris rooftops to stay a step ahead of her five cartoonish burgling frenemies on a quest to steal a painting with a decadent and scandalous secret? kisses fingers Parfait! Recommended by Jane.
Sapiens: A Graphic History2020 by Harari, Yuval N.Get this item
As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the original version of Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, I found the graphic novel version of it to be both a good summary of the first part of the book and something fresh, fascinating, and even charming in itself. This isn’t just reheated leftovers but a good meal in itself. Recommended by Steven.
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