The Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table is thrilled to announce the final 2021 Best Graphic Novels for Adults Reading List. This year’s reading list highlights the best graphic novels for adults published in late 2020 and through 2021, and we hope it will increase awareness of the graphic novel medium, raise voices of diverse comics creators, and aid library staff in the development of graphic novel collections.
2021 Best Graphic Novels for Adults – Official List
After the Rain
Nnedi Okorafor, David Brames, John Jennings; 2021 – Abrams Books
$22.99, ISBN 9781419743559
An adaptation of a short story by Nnedi Okorafor, this story explains the aftermath of a violent storm and the effect on the community.
Ballad for Sophie
Filipe Melo, Juan Cavia, Gabriela Soares; 2021 – Top Shelf Productions
$24.99, ISBN 9781603094986
Following the life of a pianist turned showman, this fictional biography explores the intricacies of relationships, art and life.
Blue In Green
Ram V, Art by Anand Rk and John Pearson; 2020 – Image Comics
$17.99, ISBN 9781534317130
Jazz musician goes home following the death of his mother and discovers secrets which threaten to devour him even as they prompt him to pursue greatness.
Jordan Morries, Sarah Morgan, Tony Cliff, Natalie Riess; 2021 – First Second
$19.99, ISBN 9781250245564
After delivery guy, Mitch, is bit by an Imp, alien monstrosities who invade the city of Fairhaven, in Morgan’s apartment, and gains superpowers, they decide to team-up on Huntr, a gig-based job app, where they hunt and kill Imps for money.
Chasin’ The Bird
Dave Chisholm; 2020 – Z2
$24.99, ISBN 9781940878386
Several different people shine a light on the legend of Charlie Parker’s time in California. This is part biography, part historical fiction, all love letter to jazz.
Aminder Dhaliwal; 2021 – Drawn & Quarterly
$24.95, ISBN 9781770464377
In a world where cyclops are another group of human life, Cyclopedia Exotica circulates several stories of cyclops living in today’s modern world. Each character seeks the same things as their two-eyed community, finding love, navigating life and careers, and cultivating their communities as humans.
The Day the Klan Came to Town
Bill Campbell, Bizhan Khodabendeh; 2021 – PM Press
$15.95, ISBN 9781629638720
A fictionalized retelling of the “Karnegie Day” riot in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, when the KKK decided to storm a town of “undesirables”. Told from the point of view of an Italian immigrant, it focuses on the town’s resistance and how they drove the KKK out of their land.
James Albon; 2021 – Top Shelf Productions
$24.99, ISBN 9781603094924
Two brothers move from their secluded island to London to start a farm to table restaurant. After debuting a new dish featuring a mysterious mushroom they found on the farm business really starts to boom and Tulip gets caught up in the rush of the business – dangerously so.
Department of Truth, Vol 1: The End Of The World
James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds; 2020 – Image Comics
$9.99, ISBN 9781534318335
Cole Turner is recruited to work for The Department of Truth, which is responsible for making sure that conspiracy theories don’t become the truth. As he gets deeper into the Department, he realizes he may have gotten caught up in a much larger conspiracy than he ever could have imagined.
Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1
Brian Herbert, Adapted by Brian Herbert, and Kevin J. Anderson, Art by Raúl Allén, and Patricia Martín; 2020 – Abrams Comic Arts
$24.99, ISBN 9781419731501
Two political houses fight for control of the planet Arrakis. A messiah complex for Paul and the desert people of the planet. Paul and the opposing parties try to eliminate one another at every turn. There is constant espionage, and trust no one. A fantastic first volume adaptation of Dune.
Sarah Andersen; 2020 – Andrews McMeel Publishing
$14.99, ISBN 9781524860677
A slice of life tale of the everyday love, from the perspective of a 300-year-old vampire that has never found love before.
N. K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell; 2021 – DC Comics
29.99, ISBN 9781779512055
For the past six months, newly chosen Green Lantern Sojourner Jo Mullein has been protecting the City Enduring, a massive metropolis of 20 billion people. The city has maintained peace for over 500 years by stripping its citizens of their ability to feel. As a result, violent crime is virtually unheard of, and murder is nonexistent.
Joe Ollmann; 2021 – Drawn and Quarterly
$24.95, ISBN 9781770464636
Caleb, an obscure painter, grew up with a negligent father and an aloof mother. The irony here is that Caleb’s father was the creator of a comic strip called Sonny Side Up. The strip depicted a father and son whose loving relationship was everything Caleb’s relationship with his father was not. When Caleb’s father dies, Caleb makes the fateful decision to take over the strip.
The Good Asian, Volume 1
Pornsak Pichetshote, Alexandre Tefenkgi, Lee Loughridge, Dave Johnson; 2021 – Image Comics
$14.99, ISBN 9781534320949
Chinatown noir starring the first generation of Americans to come of age under an immigration ban, the Chinese, as they’re besieged by rampant murders, abusive police, and a world that seemingly never changes.
Will McPhail; 2021 – Houghton Mifflin
$28.00, ISBN 9780358345541
Nick is an illustrator who mixes his own projects with ads. He begins to find authentic human connections and is let in—to the worlds of the people he meets. Nick’s journey occurs alongside the beginnings of a relationship with Wren, a spirited oncologist at a nearby hospital.
The Incredible Nellie Bly
Luciana Cimino, Sergio Algozzino; 2021 – Abrams
$24.99, ISBN 9781419750175
Nellie describes her trip around the world in 72 days, her interview with Belva Lockwood, the first female presidential candidate, and much more. It paints a beautiful portrait of a courageous woman who defied societal expectations and all the good she has done in this world.
No One Else
R. Kikuo Johnson; 2021 – Fantagraphics
$16.99, ISBN 9781683964797
Charlene is a single mother is caring for her infirm father and young son. When the father passes away, Charlene decides to quit her job as a nurse and enroll in medical school. While the relationship between Charlene and Robbie is often strained, Robbie, her brother, provides a bit of stability and needed attention for Charlene’s son
Joe Hill, Stuart Immonen; 2020 – DC Comics
$24.99, ISBN 9781779506887
The story takes inspiration from The Thing and Alien movies, and also a touch of the spiral-obsessed Uzumaki manga series. An Artic research ship that went missing 40 years earlier, has mysteriously sent out a new signal. A salvage vessel discovers the assumed-dead crew and chaos ensues!
Rebecca and Lucie in the Case of the Missing Neighbor
Pascal Girard, Helge Dascher; 2021 – Drawn & Quarterly
$21.95, ISBN 9781770464643
Rebecca is a new mom, nearing the end of her maternity leave. When she witnesses something potentially sinister in her neighborhood that may be connected to the disappearance of a local man, she decides to investigate…with baby Lucie in tow. This pair of unlikely and unqualified detectives make surprising discoveries due to Rebecca’s boldness and persistence.
Matthew Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Jacob Phillips; 2020 – Image Comics
$24.99, ISBN 9781534318519
Meet Ethan Reckless: Your trouble is his business, for the right price. But when a fugitive from his radical student days reaches out for help, Ethan must face the only thing he fears…his own past.
Junji Ito, Translated by Jocelyne Allen; 2020 – VIZ Media
$22.99, ISBN 9781974717477
A mysterious planet is discovered by a scientist and to honor it’s discovery he names it after his
daughter, Remina. When questions about the true nature of planet Remina start to worry the population, the scientist and Remina herself come under scrutiny as fame gives way to fanatical infamy.
Hiromi Goto, Ann Xu; 2021 – First Second
$24.99, ISBN 9781626723566
Fed up with life in an assisted living home, aging Kumiko mounts a daring escape, and succeeds in reclaiming a life lived on her own terms. But before long, strange things begin to happen. Is Kumiko’s mind playing tricks? Or are there darker supernatural forces at work?
Junji Ito, Translated by Jocelyne Allen; 2021 – VIZ Media
$19.99, ISBN 9781974718900
A young woman, Kyoko, visits a village at the foot of a volcano that has golden hairlike fibers everywhere giving the citizens psychic abilities like telepathy and the ability to peer into the expanse of the cosmos. They then were put to death by the shogunate for not denouncing their faith and were tossed into the volcano.
Lee Lai; 2021 – Fantagraphics
$24.99, ISBN 9781683964261
Ray and Bron isolate from each other and attempt to repair their broken family ties — Ray with her single-mother sister and Bron with her teenage sister who doesn’t fully grasp the complexities of gender identity. Taking a leap of faith, each opens up and learns they have more in common with their siblings than they ever knew.
Kat Leyh; 2021 – Gallery 13
$29.99, ISBN 9781982133573
Using magic, three mermaids transform into humans so they can party on land but soon realize they do not know how to turn back. These fish out of water must adjust to life on land with the help of a friendly bartender while they search for the spell that will return them to their mermaid forms.
This Is How I Disappear
Mirion Malle,Translated by Aleshia Jensen and Bronwyn Haslam; 2021 – Drawn & Quarterly
$24.95, ISBN 9781770464612
Follows twenty-something Clara as she navigates her job, publishing a book, relationships, mental health and just generally existing to varying degrees of success.
Thor, vol. 1: Devourer King
Donny Cates, Nic Klien; 2020 – Marvel
17.99, ISBN 9781302920869
Thor, now King of Asgard, teams up with Galactus to prevent the Black Winter from returning.
Shigeru Mizuki, Translated by Zack Davisson; 2021 – Drawn & Quarterly
24.95, ISBN 9781770464360
The cultural equivalent of Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, Tono Monogatari is a defining text of Japanese folklore and one of the country’s most important works of literature.
Trese Vol 1: Murder on Balete Drive
Budjette Tan, Kajo Baldisimo; 2020 – Ablaze
$19.99, ISBN 9781950912193
Alexandra Trese works with police and governments to uncover and solve mysterious crimes on the streets of the Philippines while also interacting with the gods and spirits of the mythological realm.
Chris Gooch; 2020 – IDW Publishing
$29.99, ISBN 9781603094771
Under-Earth takes place in an underground landfill where the debris from humanity is sifted through by prisoners considered irredeemable by society. The story follows several inmates who struggle to make a better life in a place with no sky and always under the watchful eyes of the prison guards.
Keum Suk Gendry-Kim; 2021 – Drawn & Quarterly
$24.99, ISBN 9781770464575
This fictional story is inspired by the lives of many Korean families who were separated when the county split into North and South. After seventy years. Gwija, now an elderly woman, still dreams of reconnecting with her lost son. Her daughter Jina ponders the promise she made to help try and find him.
Wonder Woman: Dead Earth
Daniel Warren Johnson; 2020 – DC
$29.99, ISBN 9781779502612
Diana wakes up from a centuries-long sleep to discover a post-apocalyptic world. Humans are running out of food and being hunted by monsters and there’s not a hero to be found.
YOU DIED: An Anthology of the Afterlife
Kel McDonald, Andrea Purcell; 2021 – Iron Circus Comics
$20.00, ISBN 9781945820632
YOU DIED celebrates these vibrant cultural expressions of the great equalizer in a thrilling, life-affirming whirlwind of a book, an inspirational volume to be treasured through times of both loss and abundance.