This might come across as a surprise to you but 2022 has been here for a month now. Yes, yes! I’m shocked; how was January the slowest month that went by too fast? Anyway, February has brought all of us two possibilities: either your yearly reading challenge is right on track or you’re so far behind that number, it’s not even funny. Or you must have taken up a challenge of reading one book and congratulations, I’m sure you’ve already nailed it. Whatever may be the status of your reading challenge, graphic novels can be a great pick for whenever you wish to read something great yet quick, visually enticing, and plain exciting. So here are twenty-three graphic novels and comics, some pretty recent and some even upcoming, for a TBR that you can actually tackle better — especially if you want a lead on that yearly reading goal. ✨
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Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe
Greek Gods in Gossip Girl style. Hades, king of the underworld, meets newbie spring goddess Persephone at a party and sparks fly. And while this relationship is at its center, Lore Olympus also plays with almost every god and mortal we know from ancient mythology. Both lighthearted and dark, and accompanied with a pink-blue palette and misty background, this debut that was originally a hit comic on Webtoon is hard to resist.
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki, Ill. Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
All Freddy wants is for Laura to stop breaking up with her. But she’s a terrible girlfriend, she’s self-absorbed, she’s careless. When she breaks up with Freddy for the fourth time, Freddy consults the services of a local mystic who advises her to call the relationship quits, but she has no idea how to stop this toxic cycle. Queer and sad, this coming-of-age story with an ethnically diverse cast adorns detailed panels and pink highlights.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Ill. Wendy Xu & Joamette Gil
Nova, a hard of hearing young witch, investigates supernatural occurrences in her town and one fateful night, comes across her childhood crush—Tam, a non-binary werewolf—battling a horse demon in the woods. Against a backdrop of untested magic, occult rituals, a blossoming sapphic love, and supportive, queer grandmas, this fantasy with Chinese-American characters holds on to simple drawings and an autumn palette.
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan, Ill. Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson & Jared K. Fletcher
When scavengers lurch around the dark streets and a wormhole opens over a football field to call in flying dinosaurs with laser spear-wielding riders, four tweens on their bicycles are thrown into a plot of alien invasion and time travel. Set during a Halloween night of 1988 in a Cleveland suburb, this sci-fi brings an art that captures the ‘80s aesthetic through blues and pinks that are dark, vibrant, and otherworldly—othertimely.
Zodiac Starforce by Kevin Panetta, Ill. Paulina Ganucheau
An elite group of high-school girls with magical powers have sworn to protect the planet against dark creatures while also combating math tests. When an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, the girls need to rebuild their friendship and get back together. With a diverse cast and the Magical Girl trope, this superheroine comic shows soft outlines with a bold palette of colours that is intentionally retro.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Ill. Jillian Tamaki
Rose and Windy, two summertime friends, have hit early adolescence and are growing apart. Rose now finds the still-childish Windy a little boring, and while Windy’s instincts are often sound, Rose is led astray by an infatuation with a local convenience store clerk. Rendered in a placid indigo ink and with incredible monochrome visuals, this bittersweet graphic novel comments on puberty, sexuality, trauma, and first love.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Tr. Mattias Ripa, Blake Ferris & Anjali Singh
Telling the story of Satrapi’s childhood, this graphic novel is about a young girl’s life under the Iranian revolution amidst rising totalitarianism. As her rebellious streak puts her in danger and she never lapses into sensationalism or sentimentality despite the grimness, this memoir adopts a minimal yet stark art colored in black and white to present a child’s view of war, ideals, pride, and freedom during tumultuous times.
Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu, Tr. Montana Kane
Short graphic biographies about thirty inspiring women from many unexpected times and places—including Las Mariposas, sisters from the Dominican Republic who worked to overthrow the dictator; and Katia, who fought to be recognised as a volcanologist. With huge amounts of information being distilled into cartoons that are clever, funny, and powerful, this collection of those forgotten by history is a celebration of feminism.
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Struggling to tell his immigrant mother that he’s gay, thirteen-year-old Tiến cherishes his ritual of reading fairy tales like Cinderella and The Little Mermaid to her. Despite her busy schedule as a seamstress, Hiến dreams of taking her son to her hometown in Vietnam to meet her mother. With detailed illustrations and complementary colors, this debut captures queerness, identity, and a bond of love that can transcend language.
The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin, Ill. Noah Hayes &. Rebecca Nalty
Liv loves leading teams. Charlie is a recent transfer. Liv is determined to get Charlie to join her newly minted basketball team and Charlie finds that this new team might just be what she needs to love basketball again. With bright colors and expressive lines in panels that speak excitement, this ethnically diverse cast of endearing individuals combine humour, friendship, and a cute sapphic flirting to win on the court.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera, Ill. Celia Moscote & James Fenner
A graphic adaptation of Rivera’s YA novel with the same name contemplates on the intersection of race and queerness, feminism and self-discovery, and humor and conflcit. Juliet is headed to Portland for an internship and the night before her departure, she decides to come out to her Puerto Rican family. With a color palette heavy in peaches and purples, this contemporary captures emotional growth and intersectional feminism.
Sheets by Brenna Thummler
A coming-of-age story that combines realism and fantasy, this YA fiction is a moving exploration of sadness, depression, friendship, and fear. Marjorie is single-handedly running her family laundromat business after losing her mother in a tragic accident, and when an ominous man wants to sabotage the business, a young ghost becomes her ally. With a palette of soft pastels and purple outlines, this comic reflects the bittersweetness.
Quincredible by Rodney Barnes
A superhero tale with a social commentary touching themes of socioeconomic disparities, race, crime, and more. Following a meteor shower post-hurricane Katrina, a few individuals find themselves gifted with supernatural powers. As Quin explores his invincibility, his intrigue and inner conflict, and the world’s greyness is reflected through bright, saturated colours of the illustrations popping off the page.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
Weaving magical realism and an immigrant narrative, this graphic novel gives an insight into connecting with culture and filling that void of heritage. When a silk scarf from her mother’s closet serves as a portal to the India of Priyanka’s imagination, and her prayers to Shakti gives her strength, Pri is finally able to see the homeland she’s never visited—through sequences of vibrant colours and everyday panels of darker purples.
Tidesong by Wendy Xu
Inspired by Chinese mythology, this fantasy brings together a girl who doesn’t want to feel like a failure, especially with her magic, and a boy who is the son of a powerful dragon, struggling with his insecurities. With fluid depictions of the action and soft, beautiful illustrations with Studio Ghibli vibes, this heartwarming story with a wholesome romance is all about family, friendships, and emotions.
Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab by Priya Huq
After a traumatic experience in the anti-Muslim climate of 2002 Oregon, Nisrin decides to wear a hijab. Now actively learning about Islam and meeting with a mix of concern and disapproval from her own family, Nisrin—a Bangladeshi-American—continues to navigate her complicated feelings. Supported by vivid colours, a water-based media, and full-page illustrations, this coming-of-age tale is emotional and heartfelt.
No One Else by R. Kikuo Johnson
With emotion and insight, this sombre story of a family reeling from a recent tragedy is steeped in adolescent angst. Set in contemporary Hawaii, this graphic novel touches literary fiction—with the best blue and orange sequential art—to feature a dysfunctional family after a nurse’s elderly father dies in an accident and she snaps, as her brother finds out the news later and her son is forced to take up some unsaid responsibilities.
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Ill. Lisa Sterle
Becca is new to the school and is surprised when she is pulled into a powerful high school clique. High on life and the blood of misbehaving boys, a werewolf pack of four girls run wild. But when the line of bodies they leave behind catches attention, all hell breaks loose for these morally grey characters enacting vigilante justice—through colour illustrations that are reminiscent of classic comics.
Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser, Robyn Smith
A captivating love letter to the beauty and endurance of Black women, their friendships and their hair. With a slice-of-life narrative that follows a day in the life of a Black girl, the graphic novel shows five connected short story comics that use hair routines as a window into four best friends’ everyday lives. Through a black and white toned art style and detailed illustrations showing the kinks and curls, it easily triumphs.
Coming Back by Jessi Zabarsky
Challenging the concept of traditions and their impact on communities, this graphic novel follows Preet, the strongest one in a village where everyone has magic in their bones, and Valisa who has no magic at all. With a soft linework and muted pastels, the art gives both whimsical and dreamy vibes while exploring love and enchanting themes of honouring culture, history, and home where the heart is.
Across a Field of Starlight by Blue Delliquanti
Amidst an intergalactic war, two nonbinary young adults ally against fascism and frequently upend gender norms. With a diverse cast and a spellbinding interstellar universe, this graphic science-fiction brings together Fassen from a war-torn world, raised as part of a resistance movement, and Lu from a peaceful world that values independence—exploring friendship and love through vibrant colours.
Malika: Warrior Queen by Roye Okupe
An intriguing fantasy and a learning experience, this series weaves mythologies, a rich world, an internal rebellion, and a badass, fierce, and confident queen in a fictional 15th century West African nation who can dominate battle scenes and rule with elegance. With cinematic artwork that highlights the cultural diversity, the stunning world, and the action sequences, this adventurous graphic novel is worth it.
Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds, Ill. Pablo Leon, Geoffo & Ariana Maher
A middle-grade graphic novel following Miles, a normal kid who happens to juggle school in Brooklyn while swinging through the streets as Spider-Man. After a disastrous earthquake strikes his mother’s birthplace, Puerto Rico, he springs into action to set up a fundraiser. But when a disappearance brings up connections to giant corporations, the bright, warm colours bring across emotion, action, and the truth.
what book are you most excited to read from these? 💛