I grew up watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Blake’s 7. Spaceships, epic battles, robots, time travel, the stars! Exciting people doing exciting things on exciting other planets! What’s not to love? So here’s a list of the first wonderful sci-fi graphic novels I stumbled across in my comics reading journey. I hope you’ll find something to enjoy here!
— This post is being updated in March 2020 to consolidate all my sci-fi comics recommendations in one list. Publication info for ongoing series might be a bit out of date; will update when I can. Happy reading! —
Before we jump in:
- All comics here can be bought as graphic novels/collections, not only as single issues. Your library may own many of these!
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“Dustbowl cyberpunk” is apparently my jam, which I didn’t know before reading this comic set on Earth 2235, two hundred years after most plant life on the planet died. Markesha Nin lives with her father and works as a courier in the city-state of Trinity, which is ruled by various corporate factions. Unfortunately for Markesha and her father’s safety, she gets entangled in a revolutionary plot to bring down the ruling class. This has huge sci-fi world building, thrilling action, and a biracial woman protagonist, so I’m not sure what else I could want.
Two volumes of Kamikaze have been produced so far, and it’s an ongoing webcomic.
Diversity note: Nguyen is a woman of color.
Dicebox follows Molly and Griffen, itinerant space station workers, as they bounce from one job to the next. Molly is the level-headed one who has strange visions, Griffen is the tempestuous one with a complicated past that, by the end of this first book, may be coming back to haunt her. Lee slowly builds a complex world out of characters of various genders, pasts, and interests. It’s working class lives set in space, very queer (including regular use of varied pronouns), with female characters who have complex and interesting personalities.
Someday there will be a second volume, I’m certain… Book 1 was 9 parts when published online as a webcomic, Book 2 is up to 7 parts so maybe we’re close? C-Man and I are waiting patiently. Well, almost patiently.
What it’s about, because I can’t possibly explain it better: “DRIVE tells the story of a second Spanish empire, a galactic empire, and its looming war with a race called ‘The Continuum of Makers’. Humanity has built their empire using technology stolen from the Makers — and these creatures want it back with an almost religious fervor. In the brewing war, it’s clear that humanity will lose, and lose badly, unless they can find some advantage in battle. That hope arrives in the form of a tiny, mysterious creature who can drive a starship like no one’s ever seen. Now all humanity needs to do… is find 10,000 more pilots just like him. But no one knows where he’s from. We follow the crew of the scout ship Machito, who have been press-ganged into a unique mission by an Emperor they despise: Find this mysterious race, or the empire… ends.”
If you couldn’t tell from the summary, this comic is freakin’ funny. It’s not a gag comic, and not a joke a minute, but the interactions between some of the characters just about kill me. The captain is my favorite tough old broad in comics, and her exasperation is the absolute best. Mix in some serious double-crossing, secret identities, and galaxy-wide conspiracies, plus some really touching moments, and you have yourself a good space adventure.
Only the first volume of Drive is available to purchase right now, but the second has been Kickstarted, so it should be available later.
100% of the comics-reading adults in my household regularly lament the dearth of hard/military sci-fi in comics, so we were excited to find this space colonization survival book.
Venus is set in 2150, during a race between the U.S. and the “Pan Pacific Alliance” to settle Venus and exploit its natural resources. (Apparently and unsurprisingly, humanity hasn’t learned much by 2150.) The story follows a U.S. ship as it crashes on Venus. There’s a stark contrast in the first pages between the too-real crash and the shiny, patriotic political speech about the expedition, as given back on Earth. That contrast sets an appropriately grim tone for the book. Commander Pauline Manashe assumes command during the crash due to the Captain’s death and has to deal with a damaged ship, injured and dead crew, environmental hazards, sabotage, and unclear loyalties among the surviving crew. It’s one completely believable disaster after another. If you like a tale where every 15 minutes you say “Holy sh–, what NOW?! These people are SO DEAD!” then this book is for you.
Characters are fully developed, the atmosphere is tense, and the conflicts between them are significant and feel real. Manashe is far from perfect and has to make hard decisions, but I appreciated that neither the story nor the other crew members give her a pass just because she’s the main character and commanding officer. As an illustrator, Danlan is especially strong with body language and perspective. A perfect fit, since this book is like 80% arguments and action scenes. In a good way.
I’m sad that this was a miniseries, because I would have settled in to read an ongoing series, especially with the way it ended. Not a cliffhanger exactly, but plenty of room to keep going.
Diversity notes: (1) Two of the three major characters after Manashe are POC and scientists: Lt. Alejandra Reyes, the female ship’s engineer, and civilian botanist Dr. Chad Park. The ship’s doctor, last name Gold, is a woman of color. That was yay in a genre that often seems to forget people of color when envisioning the future! (2) For the creators, I can’t find any biographical info about Huang Duanlan. Marcio Menyz is Brazilian.
Horizon uses a sci-fi plot I haven’t seen before: a team of undercover agents from another planet is dispatched to prevent Earth from invading their home to escape environmental destruction. The first volume is full of timeline jumps to get you caught up on current events, so I had to read it twice to properly assemble everything in my brain, but I’m glad I did.
What The team’s actions against humans are only half the story. The other half is their emotional experience of being outnumbered and vulnerable on a hostile world, and how this warps the relationships between them and even their own morality. They knew they were risking everything for this mission to protect their people, but the reality on the ground is still staggering. There’s plenty of action, and I love how Gedeon draws action, but the quiet moments of despair and confusion are just as compelling.
Right now there are two collected editions, and I’m really looking forward to the third volume.
Diversity notes: (1) Three of the four team members are female. Both the primary human characters the alien team interacts with are Black, though so far they are firmly secondary characters. Really, really interesting secondary characters. Especially the guy with telekinetic powers. That dude freaks me the hell out. (2) Brandon Thomas (who is also the creator of our household fave Miranda Mercury) is African-American. Juan Gedeon is Argentinian. Rus Wooton is disabled.
A love story with robots. Two people meet, become lovers, and spend a few precious days together. What happens during those days? Dancing, talking, fleeing the Russian mafia… all that typical new relationship stuff. As the book goes on, though, there are some hard questions about identity, destiny, and what love means in a world where people are being supplanted by androids. I love the black, white, and blue palette and the crispness of Nourigat’s art style.
A Boy and a Girl is complete in one volume.
The corporate evil / mad scientist / body horror mashup of my dreams. It’s a survival thriller dark comedy about repairman Logan Ibarra, who’s in the wrong place at the wrong-est time and gets trapped in a corporate lab with several others when an experiment gone horribly wrong is unleashed. The cast is predominantly people of color, the art is exuberant and has plenty of cartoony creepiness and splatter, and I would really like to know what happens next now please and thank you.
Diversity Note: Stone is trans, his first name is Tess, but some previous book covers may reflect a no-longer-used first name.
I didn’t know if I was going to like this “cyber-dystopian noir” series, because the main character has such a giant chin. Look at that cover! It’s preposterous. But one does get used to it, and this first volume of an ongoing series turned out to be really good. It’s 2024, and someone broke the internet so there is absolutely no online privacy. Jack, our large-chinned hero, works as a courier for secrets, which travel on paper in a briefcase cuffed to his wrist. What happens to people who have valuable secrets? They get dragged into power struggles between various bad people, what else?
It’s a bit lighter and wittier than what I was expecting given the “noir” label, but I could definitely see how this dude could be doomed. I was left wanting to know more about his role in the downfall of online privacy, the A.I. who has questions about that exact topic, and how much worse things are going to get for Jack.
p.s. His girlfriend and business partner Oona is a biracial black woman, and she is wonderful.
RunLoveKill (Amazon/Comixology / Goodreads) Co-created by writer John Tsuei and artist Eric Canete. Colors and lettering by Leonardo Olea. Manu Fernandez contributed covers and helped with character design.
A futuristic action comic that takes place in a dystopia ruled by a defense ministry called The Origami. Rain Oshiro used to work for them, but she’s trying desperately get away and make a new life. Time is running out, though, and she has very few people to trust. The art here is great and really supports the mood. The people and places are all jutting angles, while the fight scenes are explosive movement. It feels like the beginning of an amazing sci-fi film. Highly recommended for fans of that genre, especially if you like the art style of Aeon Flux.
Sadly, though, this seems to have been planned as an eight issue miniseries, but only four issues came out, the last in July 2015. They’re all collected in this volume. If the lack of closure is going to bug you, I understand!
Diversity notes: (1) Most of the cast appears to be people of color. (2) As best I can tell from various articles and interviews, Tsuei is Asian-American, Canete is Filipino-American, Olea is Mexican, and Fernandez is originally from Colombia.
The book begins with military prisoners being offered their freedom if they’ll fly a ship with no support on a long-term guerrilla war against a race of aliens who are committed to killing all humans because we’re so backwards and rude. The now-ex-prisoners all have one thing in common – they got screwed over by their own, yet they still believe in saving humanity. Or at least giving the aliens a big middle finger before they die while cursing, smoking, and doing drugs. Darkly hilarious. I guess if this is what humankind’s future in space looks like, at least we’re going down fighting…?
Ellis’s introduction explains that Switchblade Honey was created in response to the sterile future he reviled in Star Trek… which really cracks me up given that I grew up on Star Trek and still adore it. It’s okay, I can love them both.
Switchblade Honey is complete in one volume. It’s out of print, but used copies seem fairly available.
Content heads-up: Discussion of an off-page sexual assault and revenge taken on the rapist.
Deadenders (Amazon/Comixology / Goodreads) Co-created by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Warren Pleece. Inks by Cameron Stewart, Richard Case, and Jay Stephens. Colors by Bjarne Hansen and Marguerite Cook. Lettering by John Costanza.
Deadenders takes place in a post-cataclysm future where most of the population lives without sunlight and poor teenagers have no future. When small-time criminal kid Beezer starts having visions of the world before the cataclysm, though, he draws far more attention from the authorities than his petty crimes warrant. Because… reasons. Which I can’t discuss much because I don’t want to spoil things, but it grows increasingly science fiction as it goes on. Let’s just say that if you’re a fan of sci-fi that asks “what is going on with reality?!” or shows oppressed youth caught up in a corrupt system, this is a book for you.
Deadenders is complete in one volume.
In a small British town populated by anthropomorphic animals, the town drunks see a falling star and head through the woods to investigate. Retired military officer Clive Slipaway, a newcomer, attends a town meeting the next day. It’s interrupted by one of those drunks, who claims the town is being invaded. Clive decides to investigate, and what he and other townsfolk find is terrifying.
C-Man called the book “The War of the Wind in the Willows” (seems to be a common reaction) and he’s not wrong. But the characters make this book a must read. Clive, the quiet tactician whose past causes him deep pain. Susan, the reclusive writer with the sharp tongue. Gilbert, the town solicitor and jolly busybody. Fawkes, the formerly drunk layabout called to action. You start to care about them, even knowing that Bad Things Will Happen. I’ve rarely felt such a building sense of dread while reading as in the first volume, especially in the nighttime scenes.
Abnett and Culbard are more ambitious with storytelling format in the second volume. Some sections are written materials authored by the characters, such as journal entries and even fiction, which is where Abnett’s wife probably helped out (she’s credited in the second volume). Culbard’s art, as always, is perfect, maybe even better than in the first volume. There’s nothing like seeing an anthropomorphized dog tilt his head exactly right while listening to a sound in the distance.
The second volume isn’t quite as successful as the first book, though, because of the one-dimensionality of the government character who’s the mouthpiece for the reactionary “national security” philosophy. But there are amazing moments. The inscription on Clive’s watch. Helena’s letter to her father, which just about broke my heart into pieces. Susan’s elegy for those lost to the invasion. Fawkes’s continued evolution. And it’s amazing how tense everything still is, from the beginning to the end. Almost moreso than in the first book, which had more immediate physical danger.
And that ending? CHILLS.
UPDATE Jan 15th 2018: Wild’s End has a third volume, Journey’s End, scheduled for 2018. The second volume, The Enemy Within, seems to be out of print, but can be purchased digitally.
Seriously intriguing sci-fi graphic novel. Alden Baylor, a normal teenager, becomes the most important person in the world. The meteor shower that was supposed to be an interesting view turned out to be an alien invasion and things will never be the same. It’s not a book with a pat, easy resolution just because it has a teenage main character. When my husband and I had both finished reading this, he said “I liked how it didn’t have a happy ending.” My response: “Or maybe it DID!” I was turning this one over in my mind for several days after I read it. Good stuff.
In the near future, criminals from poor communities are deported to a “correctional colony” on a desert planet where they work in the mines or try to survive in the gang-controlled neighborhoods. The story roughly follows the intersection of two main characters: Isaac, a young black man who is transported, and Lena, a brown queer woman who’s been living on the planet for some time and whose gang controls a section of the only city there. Gangs come into conflict, characters struggle for power, and by the end of the second volume, a Big Secret is revealed.
This book just about crackles with electricity. The art is bold and striking, the colors are rich, and it’s full of action and even a little magic. Only two volumes were produced, which leaves the story incomplete, but this is a can’t-miss if you’re a fan of dystopias or high-action sci-fi.
Diversity notes: All of the primary creators are people of color. The cast is overwhelmingly people of color, many are women, and some are queer.
When Alastair Sterling wakes up, his last memory is of collapsing while coughing up blood. Where is he? When is he? And most importantly, what is he? He’s a robotics genius who has awakened as a robot, it turns out, though no one seems to know how it happened. He tries to reconnect with his lover and colleague Brendan, but it’s complicated. Their relationship was secret when Sterling was alive, and he’s been dead for 16 years. It’s a science fiction setting, but at its core, O Human Star is about humans (and robots) doing the best they can to relate to each other. The art is grounded and confident. Humans (and robots) are solid and real.
C-Man had low expectations of the first volume because it started as a webcomic – this was back when we didn’t know much about webcomics. He declared it one of the best books he’d read that year. (And as you may have noticed, we read a lot of books.) I adore it too, and the second volume was just as thoughtful and emotional as the first. We’ll definitely be supporting the Kickstarter for the third volume whenever it goes live.
Diversity note: The two male main characters are gay, and the female main character is trans.
I.D. is a quiet little graphic novella focused on conversations between three strangers who live on a future Mars, all contemplating surgery that would transplant their consciousness into another body. Instead of an adventure book that takes place in a science fiction setting, this is science fiction that asks those classic questions: who are we, how much does that depend on our bodies, and how does technology affect our identities? It’s a short book, intriguing, and well worth reading.
Two words for this anthology: Overwhelmingly excellent. I keep trying to flip through it so I can include some details, but I get sucked in and start re-reading it. With 20 stories and 270+ pages, that’s a lot of good stuff here. Two dads save their daughter from goblins. The heir to the throne tricks a pirate into having “just a little chat.” In a side story from O Human Star, an android envisioned as male gets help from her creator to transition to a new female body. (Realistic hair is tough!) A worker on a faraway planet makes a desperate dash across its surface after an accident and depressurization in a nearby facility. This may be my second favorite comics anthology ever, it’s incredibly diverse in both characters and creators, and it’s given me a lot of homework for writers and artists to go find their other work. Even if you’re not queer like me, if you’re a genre fan, you want this.
Sometimes I feel like describing a book’s premise should be enough. For The Midas Flesh, all I want to write is “talking dinosaur is part of revolutionary spaceship crew” and BAM you should be reading this comic!
If that’s not enough, how’s this? An Evil Empire is crushing planets underfoot. A talking dinosaur uncovers rumors that the Evil Empire has hidden that old planet Earth because it fell victim to a deadly weapon. A rebel starship captain agrees to take the talking dinosaur and an ace starship pilot (who wears a hijab, yay diversity!) to Earth to retrieve the weapon and stop the war. It has strong female characters, one of whom becomes disabled during the story, which does not stop for lamentations about how her life is now over because she’s disabled. The characters struggle productively with how to be a moral person and a good friend. And I feel like I need to mention the talking dinosaur again, in case you missed it.
The Midas Flesh is complete in two volumes. Appropriate for middle grade kids and up, and both the adults in our house loved it.
By the last page, The Spire had become one of my fave science fiction comics, fave fantasy comics, and fave queer comics all rolled into one. It’s part police procedural, part political conspiracy, and has significant commentary on discrimination, so there is possibly no way it could be any better for me. It follows Sha, a queer woman (and the last of her species) who’s Commander of the City Watch in The Spire, as she tries to solve a series of murders while a new leader of the city is about to take control. But of course Sha finds so! many! secrets!
I fall more in love with Spurrier’s writing every time I read one of his books. Stokely’s art is appropriately weird, and someone wrote a blog post about the lettering by Steve Wands because it’s that good.
The Spire is complete in one volume.
An intriguing reality-warping story about superheroes, power, and the multiverse. Diana Dane, an unemployed investigative reporter, is hired by rich supergenius Darius Dax to secretly investigate a mystery. A disaster occurred in a small U.S. town, but Dax doesn’t believe the official reports of an airline crash. Dane doesn’t trust Dax, but she takes the job. What she finds is stranger than she ever could have imagined.
This was one of my favorite science fiction graphic novels in 2015. It’s based on a character and universe created by Rob Liefeld, but I wasn’t familiar with that before I read the book. The plot is complex because of multiple threads and intersecting timelines, but it wasn’t too complicated for me to follow. The cast is diverse in race and sexual orientation, and there is a significant character who uses a wheelchair, so you know I appreciated that. And Lotay’s art is gorgeous! Dreamy images, old newsprint-style coloring, and fluid lines that streak through the panels all reinforce the swirling feel of the story.
Supreme: Blue Rose is complete in one volume.
If you like stories about people finding creepy things in space, this series is for you. Alex Braith books passage on the Southern Cross for a journey to Titan. Her stated goal is to bring her sister’s body back home. But Alex wants to know why her sister died, and it turns out that the Southern Cross is exactly the right place to start asking questions. Cloonan and Belanger create an amazing level of tension as (strange) things start to happen on the ship. It almost feels like time jumps in some scenes, which adds to the spooky.
The second volume centers around Hazel Conroy, a retired detective who now lives at the Titan refinery the Southern Cross was expected to reach. Murder, mysteries, intrigue, sabotage, and riots result in Hazel and a small team heading to the site where an alien artifact was removed was unearthed, and damned if things don’t start getting bizarre again.
Loughridge uses these flat, dark colors that make everything look artificially but dimly lit. This is grungy sci-fi, not the shiny future where everything’s white and chrome. The female lead characters are awesome. The swirling conspiracy is compelling. I love it.
Southern Cross is an ongoing series.
How bad could one last train robbery be, even if you got tricked into it because of a high-stakes poker game and your ex-boyfriend is the town sheriff? Um, maybe don’t answer that. Super-cool mashup of western and sci-fi, kinda steampunky, with a female gunslinger trying to make an honest living against her own nature and plenty of robots. Kibuishi is a master storyteller, and he uses Western tropes effectively here while making something that feels unique.
It’s one volume, out of print and spendy on Amazon, but you should try to track down a copy.
Diversity note: Kibuishi is Asian-American.
Nakahara Hiroshi, in his 40s, wakes up to find himself on the wrong train. Instead of heading home to his wife and daughters, he’s on his way to the neighborhood where he grew up, and where his mother is buried. Something happens in the cemetery as he’s visiting her grave.
When he regains consciousness, he’s in the past, in his 14 year old body, but with all of his adult memories intact. He has no idea how it happened or how to return to his current life. All he can do is try to live in his own past. Then he realizes exactly when he is, and the heartbreaking event that will soon follow. Hiroshi is increasingly frantic as he realizes what’s coming for his family. Can he change it? I was unprepared for the emotional wallop of this story. Hiroshi’s desperation, the family dynamics, the possibility of being trapped in the past forever… yikes! Seriously good, both the writing and the art.
There’s a two-volume edition, and also a complete edition that combines both.
Quiet, thoughtful, initially slice-of-life manga about Mitsu, a young man who takes a job washing the windows of a station in near-Earth orbit. All humans live there, having abandoned the Earth to keep it as a nature preserve. Mitsu’s father died doing the same job, and the story (so far) mostly revolves around Mitsu’s attempts to learn more about his father by following his vocation.
Saturn Apartments is kind of like Makoto Yukimura’s Planetes (see below), in that it focuses on the lives of working class people in a science fiction setting. It’s more about characters than human colonization of space, though, especially as Mitsu begins to interact more with his coworkers and their families, and upper-class clients of his window-washing company.
The art is a little funny, with characters of all ages drawn with toddler proportions, i.e. big heads, small bodies. Older characters do look a little less toddler-y than junior high graduate Mitsu, so I adjusted pretty quickly. It’s more than made up for by the amazing perspective work with rooms, both large and small, and the exterior of the station during work shifts. Several times I had to stop just to gawk at a specific panel.
The personal growth, relationships, and vignettes about people on the station are so intriguing that I would have been happy reading this series just for that for more than its seven books. However, a larger plot started emerging later in the series where some working-class people on the station began a project to drop a manned craft down to Earth. Without spoiling, I can say that this project ends up intersecting with the class tensions on the station in an interesting and dramatic way that involves every character we got to know over the series. Every bit of character development for them was important to the series conclusion, which was was 100% satisfying. Very skillfully told.
Federal Bureau of Physics (Amazon/Comixology / GoodReads) Co-created by writer Simon Oliver and artist Robbi Rodriguez. Art by Alberto Ponticelli and Nathan Fox in the third volume, and by Ponticelli alone in the fourth volume. Colors by Rico Renzi, then by Michael Wiggam in the third and fourth volumes. Lettering by Steve Wands, and also by Jared K. Fletcher in the first volume.
Recommended for those who enjoy WTF moments, reality-within-reality sci-fi, and cranky reluctant heroes.
In the near future, you can call 911 for police, fire, ambulance… or physics emergencies, since the “laws” of reality intermittently break. Adam Hardy is an agent with the Bureau, responding to these emergency calls. Or not, or possibly two hours late, since he’s kind of a slacker. Things are about to get serious, though, and Hardy’s right in the middle of it. Will reality continue warping until it collapses, or can someone stop it?
FBP is complete in four volumes’ worth of investigations, bizarre scientific inventions, secrets, lies, growing friendships, and heroic sacrifices. The end… felt like the only way, and I was satisfied even though my heart had wanted something different. Rodriguez and Renzi together created a look that I wouldn’t call attractive, really, but instead dynamic, expressive, and totally appropriate to a story about the warping of reality. The switch to different artists later in the series wasn’t wholly successful for me, but I was invested enough in the characters to keep reading and I was glad I did.
Diversity/content notes: (1) Hardy is Pakistani-American, and partway through the first volume Hardy gets a new partner, Agent Rosa Reyes, who is Latina. The third main character, Cicero, is a Jewish man. (2) Hardy does make a couple of jokes mentioning Asperger’s that are consistent with his kinda jerky character (because due to Reyes’s backstory, she does seem to have some autism spectrum characteristics). It doesn’t come across as author-endorsed, but it’s there. (3) Rodriguez is Mexican-American, and has a visual disability.
Set in the far future, Planetes is working-class sci-fi that follows the crew of a sanitation ship. Basically, space garbage collectors dealing with all the junk that humans have let accumulate in Earth’s orbit. I didn’t completely like it until the second volume, but then I loved it.
Initially it’s a slice of life comic following these folks through their work and family lives, but a larger arc emerges as crew member Hachimaki trains to apply for a deep-space exploratory mission to Venus. His continuous speechifying about space and his destiny got a little old for me (yes, Hachi, we know, we get it, SHUT UP) but the rest of the cast made up for it so I kept going. In the second book, his character is a lot more settled, so that was a relief. The series is by turns hilarious, touching, suspenseful, and political. It’s such a nice change in science fiction to focus on characters who aren’t explorers, soldiers, or scientists – just folks getting their regular day-to-day work done. Well worth the time, especially since Yukimura’s art is, as always, crisp and expressive.
Planetes is complete in two Omnibus editions, which are fairly large, but don’t take as long to read as you’d think.
I’ve read 12 volumes of this near-future sci-fi manga so far, because that’s where my library stopped. Must acquire 13! It’s about a high school student who discovers, after dying in a traffic accident, that he’s basically immortal. So-called “demi-humans” are a known thing, but Kei Nagai didn’t know he was one. The population hates and fears them, the government captures and experiments on them, and a rogue independent cell of demi-humans aren’t so amused by any of this.
This has all the mayhem and violence you’d expect from a dystopian manga where most of the protagonists and antagonists can’t die, but that’s not what’s keeping me riveted. I think it’s the combo of (1) various characters/groups in various shades of black, white, and grey pushing on each other’s choices – including the Japanese police, and (2) the increasingly fascinating tactical use of the abilities demi-humans manifest beyond invulnerability. I literally have no clue how “regular” humans are supposed to fight back against the demi-humans.
I don’t understand why there’s only a token one or two female demi-humans in the cast, and that’s a constant annoyance. But the rest is compelling enough to override that or I wouldn’t have gotten this far. YMMV.
I’m totally here for techno-horror magic run amok and the tortured team of smart people who (hopefully) try to stop it. Even though they caused it in the first place. Because if you put a group of geniuses together in fiction, of course they’re going to do something stupid just because they’re smart enough to think of it. So I just take that for granted, rather than holding it against them, and look at what happens next. If that involves creepy monsters and possessed computer systems, so much the better.
The first volume was a great opening act for the series, balancing backstory and present adventures. When Ellis is on, he’s one of my favorite writers, and he’s definitely on here. The second volume just makes everything worse in interesting ways. (Though I wish it hadn’t included cannibalism, since that’s normally a hard pass for me. YMMV.) The third volume, sadly, didn’t add much interest value to the central threat, feeling more like a straightforward “bad magical things are happening” episode of a television show, but towards the end there’s some promise that the Big Bad is about to level up again.
Bellaire is one of the best colorists in the business, and Shalvey gives her SO much to work with. Especially all the characters with dead eyes (shiver). The difference between how backgrounds are done in present-day scenes versus back-then scenes is one of my favorite art features in this book, so watch for that.
Injection is an ongoing series.
Diversity note: I very much appreciated the team being 3 POC and 2 white people, with additional speaking POC characters outside the team. If we could get 50% of comics to this level of diversity, it would be a revolution. The white characters are more central in the first book, but the second and third books make the POC characters the main characters almost all the time.
Long but well worth it, a space-based sci-fi journey about a young woman finding her lost love. Mia signs on with a ship that travels to sites and renovates/restores them. She makes friends with the crew – one nonbinary person and the rest are women – and eventually enlists them to travel to a forbidden planet so she can say goodbye to the girl she loved.
It’s told in a combination of present events and flashbacks to Mia’s school romance, and I felt like both parts were in good balance. The secondary characters are well developed. There’s so much lovely queer rep. This was my next Tillie Walden read after Spinning and it didn’t disappoint. It’s just so warm and affirming, and a gorgeous affirmation of the value of friendship.
Diversity note: Walden is a lesbian.
A quietly wonderful social justice robot freedom romance comic. Alex’s rich grandmother thinks he’s still moping from a breakup, so she buys him a top of the line android companion that he didn’t want. As Alex tries to get to know Ada, he starts to suspect that she could be more than the company that made her will admit. His investigation leads him into contact with an underground robot rights movement, but it also stirs up questions among people close to him who might be more dangerous than he imagines.
Alex is a fundamentally decent person. His struggle is to figure out what the right thing is, not whether to do that right thing. So when he learns more about Ada’s potential, he simply does what needs doing. Luna’s reserved art style is a perfect match for the subdued personalities of Alex and Ada, and the story provides good contrast between them and some of the more expressive characters (notably Alex’s grandmother, who seems to delight in sharing TMI with Alex about her relationship with her own android).
A couple of my friends observed that Alex’s affect and behavior at the beginning of this series strongly suggest depression, and I’m inclined to agree, though I think it’s situational rather than biological/ongoing. Watching him come out of his shell because he needs to protect Ada makes my heart all melty.
Alex + Ada is complete either in four small volumes, or one large collected edition.
Diversity note: Jonathan Luna is Filipino-American.
If you got a letter from your future self, would you believe it? What if everything the letter predicted came true? What if it asked you to save one of your classmates from a terrible fate… and you start falling in love with him?
Time-traveling letters, possible parallel universes, friends who love each other… there is no way I could have resisted this manga, even if I wanted to. It’s possibly the cutest saddest comic I have ever read and I love it five million. I seriously want to buy two copies of this book so I can use one to cut out every panel where there’s a face close up to make a giant poster, because they are so damn beautiful. And then if there are any speech bubbles left, I’ll make a collage of all the different lettering styles and speech bubble decorations, because they are also too freakin’ adorable.
I was hesitant to read the second book, because I was afraid the author wouldn’t keep up with the complexity of the feelings and relationships between the characters, especially in what could be viewed as a love triangle between the main POV character, the classmate she’d trying to save, and another boy who’s obviously in love with her. Have no fear, my friends. The ending was just as good as the rest of the story.
East of West is a gory alternate history post-apocalyptic science fiction magical epic about averting the apocalypse? Maybe? It’s set on the continent we call North America. The attempted conquest of that continent by Europeans resolved very differently than in our history, leading to a Native American nation, the Kingdom of New Orleans ruled by an African-American dynasty, and a Chinese nation, among others. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are ready to bring about the end of world, except that Death has defected. He had fallen in love, married, had a child, was betrayed and murdered, and rose again to seek vengeance.
Martin’s colors are stunning from the very first page, a gorgeous match for Dragotta’s art. And this is Hickman at his best, telling a multi-layered story made of conspiracy and shifting allegiances, while also communicating the emotional core of each character in a large cast. It does make for a complex reading experience, especially since volumes come out once or twice a year. We’ve generally had to re-read at least the preceding volume each time one has been published just to remember exactly what was happening.
If you’re into intricate plots and backstabbing, though, it’s SO very worth it. Plus, if you start now, you can read seven volumes straight through before having to wait in agony for the next book like the rest of us!
Diversity note: Rus Wooton is disabled.
Gorgeously illustrated space opera about robots and the legacy of past decisions. Dr. Quon, formerly a stylish and famous robotics genius but now a down-and-out academic, is grabbed by the government because he may have the key to stopping an alien menace – one he failed to stop when they first attacked. Tim, a “young” robot companion who awakes from a too-long sleep to find that everyone he knows is dead – but his design is somehow related to the alien menace.
Nguyen’s painting style lends soft edges and humanity to a futuristic setting and multiple robot characters. His art enriches the story at every turn. Even the paneling changes depending on which characters are interacting. And if there’s an award for comics lettering, Steve Wands should win it. Watch the styles used for each character and how they compare to other characters. It’s a great demonstration of how much lettering can add to visual storytelling.
Descender is so much about how the past influences the present. Lemire is adept at mixing both with clarity, and without slowing down the forward momentum of the story. Even in the second volume which is almost completely character backstory, you can feel how necessary it is to understand where these people came from. The different robots have very different personalities, as do the various humans and aliens. And in the middle, is Tim, who clearly sees them all as just different kinds of people, bridging any gap between biological and machine sentience.
Four volumes into this ongoing series, I’m just as engrossed with Descender as I was after the first volume. Recommended because space opera, cute little robot boy and his robot dog, and a badass space marine type gal with blue skin and something to prove.
Diversity notes: (1) One imagines Dr. Quon is of Asian heritage, though I’m not sure it ever specifies in the text. (2) Nguyen is Asian-American.
Paper Girls is a time travel comic that begins in 1988 starring a diverse group of teenage girls who all have paper routes. Until most of the people in their town disappear after they find a weird alien device in a basement, at which point there isn’t much call for newspapers, and also they spent most of their time running for their lives, caught between two factions engaged in a time travel war, and trying to figure out what the heck is going on.
The first volume felt a little baffling, even on re-read, though it had plenty of intriguing mystery. But can I say how amazing it felt to read a science fiction comic where teen girls are the stars? The second volume included more answers about the war and deeper character development, so that’s when the series really “clicked” for me. (Yes, someone does meet up with their future self, because time travel.) The third volume was a little more straightforward “stranded in the past” storyline, and I enjoyed it. So far, Paper Girls is a strong sci-fi action comic centered around girls and women, with POC, Jewish, and queer rep, and I’m looking forward to the fourth volume.
I hate to recommend a comic without discussing the art, but I don’t know what to say about Cliff Chiang’s art except that I always adore it.
Diversity note: Cliff Chiang is Asian-American.
And that’s the list of my favorite science fiction comics and graphic novels (so far)! If you have any suggestions for me, please leave them in the comments – and thanks for sharing this post on social media or with friends!