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8 Best Graphic Novels For Newcomers To The Genre

When was the last time you visited a local library? If the answer involves any of the words “college,” “term paper,” or “emergency bathroom visit,” there’s a strong chance you haven’t noticed a significant change in one section in particular — the graphic novel section. Why would an adult want to read a graphic novel? For starters, the writers and artists working in graphic novels and comic books today are some of the most talented and creative people on the planet.

Graphic novels have evolved from a collection of comic books covering the exploits of Caped Crusaders and a man from Krypton to highly diverse literary works exploring topics such as death, genocide, marriage, sexual orientation, and world events. Some of these titles and topics aren’t the typical, easy beach read.

We realize it’s overwhelming for a person to dive right into the world of graphic novels, especially with thousands of titles to choose from, so we put together this quick list of the best graphic novels for beginners. An essential point about this collection of graphic novels for new readers to the genre. This list isn’t meant to be a ranking of the best graphic novels ever. These eight fantastic graphic novels will help a new reader become interested in the genre.

Here are our sections for graphic novels before for people interested in reading more graphic novels.

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

Cover of the graphic novel The Killing Joke by Alan Moore.
DC Comics

Let’s kick off this list with two of the most complicated characters ever to grace a comic book page – Batman and the Joker. The Killing Joke is the origin story for the Joker, presented via flashback, while simultaneously depicting the supervillain’s attempt to drive Commissioner Jim Gordon insane as Batman attempts to stop the clown prince of crime.

Moore’s story paints Joker as a tragic character for the first time, revealing he’s a family man and failed comedian who suffered one lousy day that finally drove him over the edge and into insanity. The Killing Joke won the famed Eisner Award for “Best Graphic Album” in 1989 and appeared on The New York Times Best Seller List.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Cover of the graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns.
DC Comics

The Caped Crusader makes a second appearance on our list of the best graphic novels for new readers with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. This graphic novel tells the alternate universe story of Bruce Wayne, now aged 55, and forced to return under the cowl to fight classic foes like Two-Face and the Joker and ends with a fight against Superman with the Man of Steel being a puppet for the US government.

This gritty and dark graphic novel thriller is the inspiration for the Batman fans recognize today. The twisted ending of this graphic novel is sure to covert casual graphic novel fans into hardcore addicts.

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Cover of the graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore
DC Comics

“Who watches the Watchmen?”

The year is 1985. Costumed vigilantes have been outlawed. Most superheroes are either retired or working for the feds when the murder of a superhero brings them all out of hiding.

Named one of the best novels ever by Time magazine, Watchmen is a groundbreaking graphic novel that exposes the superhero genre and introduces readers to the dark side of human nature hiding under cloaks, masks, and capes. Writer Alan Moore once said in an interview, “What we wanted to do was show all of these people, warts and all. Show that even the worst of them had something going for them, and even the best of them had their flaws.”

The Boys by Garth Ennis

Cover of the graphic novel The Boys.
Dynamite Entertainment.

The Boys took Watchmen as an inspiration and took the idea of flawed superheroes to an entirely different level. The heroes in “The Boys” aren’t just impaired people. They’re damaged, defective, and debauched.

The real heroes of the graphic novels are the anti-heroes known as “The Boys” – a CIA group charged with keeping the supes in check. The results are typically gruesome fights and unfortunates situations. There’s also a ton of comic book sex and filthy language if you’re into that kind of thing.

Justice by Alex Ross and Jim Krueger

Cover of graphic novel Justice.
DC Comics

The easiest way to sum up the story of Justice is with one question, “What if the bad guys suddenly acted like good guys, but the good guys still didn’t trust them?”

Led by Lex Luthor and Brainiac, the villains of the Legion of Doom band together to save the world after each has a shared dream that sees the end of the Earth. While trying to save the world from possible destruction while helping solve the world’s most significant problems and turning public opinion against the Justice League, the group is confronted by Superman, Batman, and the rest, and naturally, doubt the evil group’s true motives.

Read More: Best Superhero Movies of All Time

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Cover of the graphic novel Blankets by Craig Thompson
Top Shelf Productions

Written by Craig Thompson, Blankets is a coming-of-age autobiography, telling the author’s story of being raised in a strict Evangelical Christian home and haunted by feelings of shame and guilt while navigating his way through a sexual relationship with his first love. Besides love, Thompson tackles other coming-of-age issues such as child and adult sexuality, spirituality, sibling relationships, and the overall awkwardness of being young.

Time magazine ranked Blankets at the top of its 2003 Best Comics list and in the top ten of its Best Comics of the Decade list.

Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine

Cover of the graphic novel Killing and Dying.
Drawn and Quarterly

Adrian Tomine has the gift of eliciting emotion from the reader without a word from the characters in his comic panels. In Killing and Dying, Tomine tackles heavy topics like love, family, loss, identity, and anxiety.

A New York Times Bestseller and included on countless “best of” lists, Killing and Dying is six interconnected stories, all darkly funny and relatable. Tomine’s drawings are both easy to digest and get lost inside.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Cover of the graphic novel Fun Home.
Mariner Books

This groundbreaking and bestselling graphic memoir from Alison Bechdel is the story of her unpleasant and damaged relationship with her late father, Bruce. Bruce Bechdel worked as both an English teacher and funeral home in town, a place Alison and her family dubbed “the Fun Home.” Not long after Alison came out as a lesbian, she discovers her father is gay, and a few weeks after this revelation, Bruce passes away.

The award-winning Fun Home took seven years to make, in part because of Bechdel’s fascinating artistic process. She photographs herself in poses for each human figure before drawing the panel.

Editors' Recommendations

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
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