We love a good graphic novel or comic book here at Frostbeard – there’s just something about visual storytelling and beautiful linework that absolutely enchants us. Comic books can also make for a nice break after working our way through a thousand-page tome! If you’re looking for a new read, we’ve got you covered with (in our opinion) some of the greatest graphic novels and comic books of the last decade.
Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona hit us right in the feels for a couple reasons. First, the art. Simple and colorful, it immediately reminded us of a classic fairy tale. The fantasy setting (complete with dragons!) helped with that, too. Then, the story. What starts out as a good-natured tale of a shapeshifting girl annoying her way into becoming an evil villain’s sidekick takes a darker turn so subtly, you won’t realize what’s happening until you look back and realize just how far you’ve come from the seemingly simple beginning. To top it all off, Stevenson gifts us with a lovers-to-enemies-to-something situation between the villain and a golden-haired knight! And if you need even more convincing, just know that Nimona one pops up on just about every list of the best comics of 2015.
Hark! A Vagrant!
New Yorker cartoonist Kate Beaton hit it out of the park with her web series that pokes fun at a frankly impressive host of historical events and classic novels. (We particularly like her retelling of The Great Gatsby.) The online comic has since been discontinued, which is why we were so happy to find our favorites preserved in print! Hark! A Vagrant! takes on everything from Poe to ancient priests with tongue-in-cheek humor and a deceptively simple drawing style that manages to convey a ridiculous range of emotions from the characters.
If you love dark fantasy, post-apocalyptic thrillers, eldritch monstrosities, or just gruesome, atmospheric artwork, Monstress is for you. The ongoing story follows Maika Halfwolf, a part human, part demon survivor of a mysterious event that killed hundreds but left her alive. As she travels the world looking for answers to an otherworldly issue, she finds herself hunted by humans and monsters alike. We’re truly on the edge of our seats waiting for the next installment of this Eisner winner! Also, cats can talk, and they’re considered some of the wisest, slipperiest, most dangerous creatures in existence. We like how Marjorie Liu thinks!
SuperMutant Magic Academy
Combine Harry Potter with X-Men, add simple colors and charming artwork, mix in a heaping portion of surrealism, and you’ll have something approaching Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy. Honestly, you’ll have to read this one for yourself, because nothing we write can adequately convey the odd mix of feelings these little panels inspire. (But we’ll still try!) Tamaki takes a familiar setting – school – and populates it with a host of wild characters, from an immortal boy to an aspiring model with a lizard head. The kicker? Their concerns center around relatable issues, like unrequited love, succeeding after school, and coming out. Equal parts hilarious, puzzling, and devastating, this is the perfect book to read in chunks when you want to feel a little existential.
You caught us, this one is from 2007, but we couldn’t not mention Alison Bechdel’s beautifully written, painstakingly illustrated, and utterly heartbreaking autobiography. Fun Home snagged our attention from the very beginning, when we learned that the “fun” actually stands for “funeral.” Over the course of seven chapters, Bechdel explores her relationship with her closeted father, discovers her own sexuality, and interrogates some of humanity’s biggest questions. What does it mean to love someone? Can we ever truly leave behind the person our parents raised us to be? Should we? And not only did this graphic novel win an Eisner and numerous other awards, but it also spawned a Tony Award-winning musical!
The Umbrella Academy
If you hadn’t already come across The Umbrella Academy, you probably heard of it this year with the debut of its Netflix adaptation. At the start of this quirky, action-packed ride, the rich, eccentric Reginald Hargreeves adopts seven children, all of whom have unique powers and abilities. We’re talking time travel, mind control, and super strength like you’ve never seen it done before. Hargreeves’ ultimate goal? To mold his children into heroes capable of saving the world. Unfortunately, they chafe under his strict rule and go their separate ways, only to reunite a decade later when their father dies under mysterious circumstances. Who knew that Gerard Way, lead singer of My Chemical Romance, would pen such a zany, Eisner Award-winning series!
What’s Your Favorite Comic?
You have our list, but we’d love to see yours! Let us know your picks for the greatest graphic novels and comic books in the comments below. We can’t wait to check them out – in between hand pouring our book inspired candles and coming up with brand new scents, of course.