The Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table Best Graphic Novels for Adults reading list highlights the best graphic novels for adults published in a given year and it aims increase awareness of the graphic novel medium, raise voices of diverse comics creators, and aid library staff in the development of graphic novel collections. The officially nominated titles - titles that are nominated and seconded by a member of the BGNA Selection Committee - will be posted regularly during the year. The final list will be announced in January 2023.
2022 Best Graphic Novels for Adults Nominated Titles
Ex Libris. Written by Matt Madden. Art by Matt Madden. 2021. Uncivilized Press, $22.99 (9781941250440).
Madden takes the reader on an interesting exploration of different styles, genres, and formats found in the comics industry. The story also tackles some interesting concepts about comics creation as well as taking control of your own narrative.
The High Desert: Black. Punk. Nowhere. Written by James Spooner. Art by James Spooner. 2022. Mariner Books, $22.99 (9780358659112).
Spooner’s evocative black and white art brings the late 80’s punk scene to life. This memoir of growth, isolation, and racism is a love letter to the friends that helped buffer him through his most difficult times and to the internal strength it took to become the artist and activist he is today.
Adrastea. Written by Mathieu Bablet. Art by Mathieu Bablet. Translated by Mike Kennedy. 2022. Magnetic Press, $29.99 (9781951719425).
The chronicles of the journey and trials of an immortal king who, weary of his existence, sets out for Mount Olympus to petition the gods to end his life. The weary immortal king is a surprisingly engaging main character. The story is thoughtful, but the pacing is not too ponderous. The obsessively detailed art is a true feast for the eyes.
Always Never. Written by Jordi Lafebre. Art by Jordi Lafebre. Color by Clémence Sapin. Translated by Montana Kane. 2022. Dark Horse, $24.99 (9781506731377).
A love story told in reverse. A unique way to tell a story about enduring love. We know Ana and Zeno have been in love with each other for decades, but how did they meet and why aren't they together? The vibrant art is lovely and fun. A book that could have wide appeal to a variety of readers.
Halina Filipina: A New Yorker in Manila. Written by Arnold Arre. Art by Arnold Arre. 2022. Tuttle Publishing, $14.99 (9780804855440).
Halina is a half-Filipino, half-American woman visiting the Philippines to connect with her family and to search for a connection to her Filipino heritage. Halina's experience as a woman working to reconnect with her Filipino family and learn more about her heritage is one that is not included in many comics. Arre does a great job of bringing the city of Manila to life and describing the competing emotions of both Halina and Cris, a Filipino movie critic.
The Journey of Marcel Grob. Written by Philippe Collin. Art by Sébastien Goethals. Translated by Joe Johnson. 2022. Naval Institute Press, $27.95 (9781682478219).
Eighty-three year old Marcel Grob is brought before a judge and questioned about his role in the German S.S. during World War II. This is an exceptionally well-researched piece of historical fiction that seems completely authentic in both story and art. It deftly examines the moral toll that wars take on those who fight them. This book can easily sit on a shelf with works such as Catch 22 and Slaughterhouse-Five.
Mickey Mouse: Zombie Coffee. Written by Régis Loisel. Art by Régis Loisel. Translated by David Gerstein. 2022. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (9781683964377).
Mickey Mouse, Horace Horsecollar, and the citizens of Mouseton face the scheming millionaire who is attempting to turn the locals into mindless zombies. The main attraction for this book is the masterful art. Loisel's storytelling, action, and drawing style take the reader back to the era of classic comic strips.
Tuki: FIght for Fire. Written by Jeff Smith. Art by Jeff Smith. 2022. Cartoon Books, $20.00 (9781888963755).
At the dawn of humanity, Tuki searches for the Motherherd of All Buffalo. During his travels, he must confront threats from both the real world and the spirit world. Jeff Smith is a master of both drawing and storytelling. His expressive characters come alive on the page. The story is grounded in current scientific knowledge of early humans, and Smith uses his knowledge to make a remote and largely unknowable era seem real for the reader. His energetic art conveys the drama and danger of the era very well.
Days of Sand. Written by Aimee de Jongh. Art by Aimee de Jongh.Translated by Christopher Bradley. 2022. SelfMadeHero, $22.99 (9781914224041).
This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that evokes a wide range of emotions. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. There are reproductions of actual photographs featured throughout the book, and back matter provides more photographs as well as historical facts, making this an accessible way for people to learn about the devastation of the Dust Bowl in United States history.
Hell Phone. Written by Benji Nate. Art by Benji Nate. 2022. Silver Sprocket, $14.99 (9781945509827).
This title strikes a lot of chords and would be fun for true crime/armchair detectives.The story features an immediately recognizable art style and a beautifully bright palette. Most importantly, there is a supernatural telephone. The characters are disaffected twenty-somethings who happen upon a situation much bigger than anything they could imagine happening in their town.
Witches: The Complete Collection. Written by Daisuke Igarashi. Art by Daisuke Igarashi. 2022. Seven Seas Entertainment, $24.99 (9781648278396).
An interesting take on witchcraft with horror-adjacent stories that are fresh. The stories intertwine in some places but do not depend on that connection to be understandable. The art is more sketch heavy than some manga, but it captures the creator’s unique style.
Policing the City. Written by Didier Fassin. Written by Frédéric Debomy. Art by Jake Raynal. Translated by Rachel Gomme. 2022. Penguin Random House, $25.99 (9781635422504).
A translated graphic novel created using data from an ethnographic study of police behavior in low-income immigrant and minority neighborhoods in France. The subject is highly topical with clear parallels to US policing. The art style suits the content of the report with the artist being able to convey a lot of information in very little detail. [Content warning: inclusion of racial slurs.]
Animal Castle. Written by Xavier Dorison. Art by Felix Delep. 2022. Ablaze Publishing, $24.99 (9781684970032).
"On the Farm all animals were equal...in the Castle some are more equal than others." A bull leader, a dog militia, and a mother cat as a protagonist- what's not to like? The cutesy artwork is juxtaposed against a very serious narrative, and a few surprises await the reader, as the story does not exactly follow Orwell's original Animal Farm. Thought-provoking in our current political climate.
Dirtbag Rapture. Written by Christopher Sebela. Art by Kendall Goode. 2022. Oni Press, $19.99 (9781637150481).
Kat is an unlikeable character, but you suspect she has a heart of gold. Her abilities, squarely Gen X attitude, and the comedy keep the reader coming back for more. Is it Kat's fault that life on earth is so terrible? Kendall Goode's illustrations bring this strange story to life in cinematic detail.
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands. Written by Kate Beaton. Art by Kate Beaton. 2021. Drawn and Quarterly, $39.95 (9781770462892).
From the creator of Hark! A Vagrant, this was an affecting look into life for a young woman in the drilling camps and how persistent and pervasive misogyny is in that environment. Also showing the economic forces that motivate people to work there and to keep working there.
Flung out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith. Written by Grace Ellis. Art by Hannah Templer. 2022. Abrams ComicArts, $24.99 (9781419744334).
Incorporating real events in Patricia Highsmith's life and filling in the gaps to tell a story of an early gay writer as she struggles with her sexuality while trying to find her voice as a creator. Templer’s art is beautiful and creative in its panel use while working extremely well in a limited orange and grey color palette.
Liebestrasse. Written by Greg Lockard. Art by Tim Fish. 2022. Dark Horse Comics, $19.99 (9781506724553).
A beautifully written and illustrated story that gives voice to the lived counterculture experience during Germany’s interwar period. The care taken by the author and the illustrator to create a historically accurate portrayal of the dangers experienced by members of the counterculture, especially members who identified as LGBTQ+, during the rise of the Nazi's is heartbreaking.
Perfect World, vol. 10. Written by Rie Aruga. Art by Rie Aruga. Translated by Sawa Matsueda Savage. 2022. Kodansha, $12.99 (9781646511334).
Graphic novels/manga that cover the realities of living with a disability (and for it to be a love story!) are not common, and then to bring in the topic of infertility (also rare in comics) makes this title a standout. Volume 10 can be read on its own without knowing the full history of Kawana and Ayukawa's relationship.
Strange Adventures. Written by Tom King. Art by Evan Shaner and Mitch Gerads. 2021. DC Comics, $26.49 (9781779512031).
This book will appeal to anyone who likes well done superhero stories, especially those who like Silver and Bronze Age characters. The story is told in two timelines: the past being drawn by Evan Shaner and the present being drawn by Mitch Gerads. Both artists do a skillful job of depicting both large action super-heroics and smaller human dramas. Their styles are different enough to be easily distinguishable, but they still manage to work well in tandem.
Talk to My Back. Written by Yamada Murasaki . Art by Yamada Murasaki . Translated by Ryan Holmberg. 2022. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (9781770465633).
A collection of stories that uplifts the lived experiences of professional housewives in a medium/world which often neglects them. Highly recommended to public and university libraries for leisure collections and scholastic feminist manga collections. This edition includes an essay by translator Ryan Holmberg titled, The Life and Art of Yamada Murasaki.
Space Story. Written by Fiona Ostby. Art by Fiona Ostby. 2022. West Margin Press, $16.99 (9781513128757).
As humans prepare to leave a dying Earth for space, two women meet, fall in love, and start a family. When only one of them is initially able to make the trip to space, they must fight to find a way forward and a way back to each other.
The Me You Love in the Dark. Written by Skottie Young. Art by Jorge Corona. 2022. Image Comics, $16.99 (9781534321144).
A struggling artist retreats to an old house to devote time to painting and discovers an otherworldly muse in the haunted house. Ro is captivated by the spirit, but then this spirit becomes obsessed with her, preventing her from leaving the house.
The White Lady. Written by Quentin Zuttion. Art by Quentin Zuttion. Translated by Montana Kane. Europe Comics, $9.99 (9791032812839).
The story follows a young nurse, Estelle, who works in a nursing home. Estelle spends her days caring for the elderly, forming bonds and comforting them at the end of their lives. Estelle juggles her reality with those of the patients, many of whom suffer from Alzheimer's.
A Life Turned Upside Down: My Dad's an Alcoholic. Written by Mariko Kikuchi. Art by Mariko Kikuchi. Translated by Alexa Frank. 2021. Seven Seas Entertainment, $14.99 (9781648275968).
Originally published in Japanese, this gut-wrenching manga tells the true story of Mariko Kikuchi's difficult childhood with an alcoholic parent. Her subsequent adult struggles with guilt, shame, and abusive relationships will resonate with adult survivors of trauma.
Hummingbird Heart. Written by Travis Dandro. Art by Travis Dandro. 2022. Drawn & Quarterly, $29.95 (9781770465626).
Travis juggles his final days of high school, time with his friends, and caring for his terminally ill grandmother. His life and relationships become even more strained when he and his friends are caught by the police during a Halloween prank.
Lore Olympus: Volume One. Written by Rachel Smythe. Art by Rachel Smythe. 2021. Del Rey, $26.99 (9780593160299).
In this modernized (but still fantastical) retelling of Greek mythology, readers meet Persephone as she arrives in Olympus and meets Hades. The artwork is vibrant, and the storytelling is engaging, perfect elements to reintroduce or introduce a timeless story to new readers.
Hakim's Odyssey Book 1: From Syria to Turkey. Written by Fabien Toulmé. Art by Fabien Toulmé. Translated by Hannah Chute. 2021. Graphic Mundi - PSU Press, $29.95 (9781637790007).
Toulmé interviews Hakim, a Syrian refugee living in France. Hakim unravels his journey from Syria where he fled government upheaval in hopes of being able to find a stable and safe place for his family. This first book covers Hakim's journey from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey.
Iranian Love Stories. Written by Jane Deuxard. Art by Deloupy. Translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger. 2022. Graphic Mundi - PSU Press, $24.95 (9781637790045).
Ten stories of love by Iranian twenty-somethings. This politically charged graphic memoir features women who feel empowered by the regime's strict approach to gender segregation, a nerd who dreams of a life outside Iran, and other stories about the ups-and-downs of love in Iran.
Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball. Written by Jon Chad. Art by Jon Chad. 2022. First Second Books, $24.99 (9781250249210).
Chad details the history of Pinball from the Court of Louis XIV to modern machines, including its cultural effect in America throughout the 20th century. Chad also delves into what is so compelling about pinball machines that causes people to want to keep playing.
The Poorcraft Cookbook. Written by Nero Villagallos O’Reilly. Art by Nero Villagallos O’Reilly. 2022. Iron Circus Comics, $14.99 (9781945820939).
Non-fiction edutainment book with 80 pages of comic illustrations about shopping for groceries on a budget and properly stocking a pantry. Recipes included for dozens of inexpensive breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert dishes.
After Lambana: Myth and Magic in Manila. Written by Eliza Victoria. Art by Mervin Malonzo. 2022. Tuttle, $16.99 (9780804855259).
Conrad is suffering from a magical disease and enlists the help of Ignacio, a stranger with connections to Manila’s magical underground populated with mythic creatures and spirits.
A Man’s Skin. Written by Hubert. Art by Zanzim. Translated by Ivanka Hahnenberger. 2021. Ablaze, $24.99 (9781950912483).
Set in Renaissance Italy, Bianca has been promised to Giovanni, but she wishes she could get to know him before marriage. Her godmother reveals that her family possesses the magical skin of man and that they are able to wear. Bianca dons the skin and sets out to chat Giovanni up.
Amazona. Written by Canizales. Art by Canizales. 2022. Graphic Universe, $12.99 (9781728448671).
An indigenous Colombian woman whose entire community was driven from their homeland returns to bury her daughter and enact a secret plan to achieve justice for her people.
Chivalry. Written by Neil Gaiman. Art by Colleen Dornan. 2022. Dark Horse Books, $17.99 (9781506719115).
An elderly widow purchases the Holy Grail at a thrift shop and is then visited by a knight in shining armor who offers her various magical items in exchange for the Grail.
The Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Written by Ram V. Art by Filipe Andrade. Lettering by AndWorld Design. Edited by Eric Harburn. 2022. Boom Studios, $14.99 (9781684158058).
Humanity is on the verge of discovering immortality. As a result, the avatar of Death is cast down to Earth to live a mortal life in Mumbai as a twenty-something named Laila Starr.
One Beautiful Spring Day. Written by Jim Woodring. Art by Jim Woodring. 2022. Fantagraphics, $49.99 (9781683965558).
Frank, his friends, and his enemies inhabit a dreamworld that is like nothing else to be found in comics. In this wordless comic, Frank embarks on numerous surreal adventures that are sometimes lighthearted and sometimes brutal.
Stray Dogs. Written by Tony Fleecs. Art by Trish Forstner. Color by Brad Simpson. 2021. Image Comics, $13.99 (9781534319837).
Sophie is a new dog in a house full of dogs. She soon realizes her new owner is a killer and all the dogs there are trophies of his murders. Unfortunately, dogs have faulty, short-term memories, so her allegations are dismissed by the other dogs.
Walk Me to the Corner. Written by Anneli Furmark. Art by Anneli Furmark. Translated by Hanna Stromberg. 2022. Drawn and Quarterly, $29.95 (9781770464940).
Two middle-aged married women have a chance meeting at a party and have an instant connection. They soon fall deeply in love, but neither want to leave their marriages to be with one another.
Wash Day Diaries. Written by Jamila Rowser. Art by Robyn Smith. 2022. Chronicle Books, $19.95 (9781797205458).
Interconnected stories of four best friends living in the Bronx. Their stories include tough topics including family dynamics, mental health struggles, and, most important, friendship between Black women.
The Art of Sushi. Written by Franckie Alarcon. Art by Franckie Alarcon. 2021. NBM Graphic Novels, $24.99 (9781681122854).
Franckie Alarcon travels to Japan to learn all there is to know about sushi. He visits professional and home chefs alike, and he dives into everything else that goes into making and enjoying sushi. Upon returning to France, he learns about the differences between French and Japanese sushi.
Fine: A Comic About Gender. Written by Rhea Ewing. Art by Rhea Ewing. 2022. Liveright, $21.00 (9781631496806).
Questions about gender, identity, and finding oneself frame Rhea Ewing’s graphic memoir. Covers a range of topics and gives voice to both cis and trans* lived experiences.
Radium Girls. Written by Cy. Art by Cy. 2022. Iron Circus Comics, $15.00 (9781432839031).
This book depicts the story of the Radium Girls, a collection of female factory workers who were trained to apply radium-based paint to consumer goods, including watches. This book brings to life an important period in history and will keep readers engaged in these women's stories from the first page.