13 Totally Fun Graphic Novels

Some comics I read for sheer entertainment. Adventure! Over-the-top plots and larger-than-life characters! Antics, hijinks, mayhem, and impossible events! Here are some of my favorites that hit that spot, in case you find yourself with a dull evening that needs some livening up. (Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links.)

I originally posted my graphic novel rec lists in 2012-15, but they’re being refreshed and expanded in 2023-24 as I re-read most of the books to make sure I’m still enthusiastic about recommending them. However, please let me know via my contact form if you find something yikes in a book I recommend.

Buzz by Ananth Panagariya (now Hirsh), illustrated by Tess Stone (Amazon / Goodreads)

You didn’t know you needed an underground spelling bee comic book, did you? BUT YOU DO! High school student Webster is inadvertently drawn into a back alley, unsanctioned spelling bee and discovers his true gifts and a world rife with rivalry, intrigue, and secrets. This isn’t your grandma’s safe, polite spelling bee, oh no! Which world will he choose, the safe mainstream or the exciting yet dangerous new world? Can he really trust the Outlaw King and the Black Queen? What is his sister so afraid of? Hopefully he’ll be brave enough (and survive long enough) to find out!

It’s completely frenetic and zany, preposterous in the best way, and I got such a kick out of it.

The series Happy Kanako’s Killer Life by Toshiya Wakabayashi (Amazon / Goodreads)

Hapless office employee accidentally takes a job as an assassin, hijinks ensue! I had a lot of fun with this manga, honestly, even though it starts a bit scattered and I quickly had to start ignoring the animal puns. It gels in the second half, and Book 2 was a delight. If you’re looking for some wacky slice-of-life about offing misogynistic dudes – which I would not condone in real life, but this is fiction! – then I would recommend checking this out. Kanako is adorable. Not something I ever thought I’d be saying about a fictional assassin, but here we are.

[Update: There are six books out so far, and I am distraught that Book 7 seems to have been delayed. The series does get into some heavier topics occasionally, giving it more depth while maintaining the wacky humor, and I have become a huge fan.]

Mystery Society co-created by Steve Niles and Ashley Wood, written by Steve Niles, art by Fiona Staples, letters by Robbie Robbins, Chris Mowry, and Shawn Lee (Amazon / Goodreads)

Nick and Anastasia Mystery are a glamorous celebrity adventurer couple who investigate paranormal secrets. Nick is currently in jail. Doesn’t seem to bother him much. You see, Nick was caught sneaking into Area 51 to investigate a secret military project. Which he found. Which really pissed off the folks running it. With Nick in the clink, it’s up to Anastasia, twin girls saved from a laboratory, an undead crimefighter, and a robot with Jules Verne’s brain to get him out and save the day. And find Edgar Allen Poe’s stolen skull. Because that’s the kind of thing they do.

It’s eccentric without being pretentious, and I had a great time reading it.

Mystery Society has been collected three different times. The volume linked above is the last, the “definitive edition”, but it doesn’t have the extra content included in the hardcover. (However, I didn’t much care for the art in the hardcover bonus material, so.)

The series Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Stephanie Yue (Amazon / Goodreads)

We checked this out from the library thinking it was just for Boy Detective, but the adults in the house cracked up as much, if not more, than the intended seven year old audience. The main character is a bookworm guinea pig named Sasspants. Her best friend is a mouse named Hamisher who thought he was a koala but later wants to be a dragon. They live in a pet shop where the owner can’t remember what to label the cages… and there’s always a mystery afoot. The fish are all named Steve. The chinchillas have a pet mouse they carry around like a tiny dog, and they dress him up.

Trust me on this one. You won’t be sorry. Six slim volumes, every one is comedy gold.

The series Bandette by Paul Tobin, art by Colleen Coover (Amazon / Goodreads)

I’ve always been a fan of Coover’s fun art style, and Tobin is a good storyteller. Bandette is an irrepressible Parisian teenage master thief with the proverbial heart of gold… and an affinity for first editions of good books. The police love to hate her but sometimes need her help. Her rival “Monsieur” wants to save her life, even though she’s after his reputation as the world’s greatest thief. The ballerinas and street urchins just want to help. And poor Daniel! Will his heart belong to the mysterious Bandette forever? Plus, female matador! This series has a retro, French/Belgian adventure comics feel, like Tintin, but completely fresh.

We store the four books of this series in the “bought for the grownups” bookshelf but our kiddo would help himself to various volumes routinely when he was in elementary and middle school.

The series Atomic Robo written by Brian Clevinger, art by Scott Wegener, colors by Ronda Pattison, and letters by Jeff Powell (Amazon / Goodreads)

Robo is a sentient nuclear-powered robot built by Nikola Tesla in the 1920s. He fought in the second World War and inherited Tesladyne, a corporation devoted to science. Weird science. And occasionally violent science, such as kicking the butt of a walking Egyptian pyramid, or repelling a vampire invasion from another dimension. It’s like a combo of pulp, monster movies, and that friend who wisecracks so much that you can’t stop laughing.

At one point, the Robo crew was in the middle of two things, I think? (1) Re-releasing Atomic Robo in un-numbered hardcovers because you really can read them in any order, which annoyingly left out some of the side stories included in the original paperbacks and (2) Releasing and re-releasing some of their older books through a larger publisher. And now at least some of it is on Kindle. So it can get a bit confusing, but the upshot is: find a Robo book, read it. Maybe the one linked above first because it’s a good grounding, but after that follow your heart.

The series Way of the Househusband by Kousoke Oono (Amazon / Goodreads)

“A former yakuza legend leaves it all behind to become your everyday househusband. But it’s not easy to walk away from the gangster life, and what should be mundane household tasks are anything but!

He was the fiercest member of the yakuza, a man who left countless underworld legends in his wake. They called him ‘the Immortal Dragon.’ But one day he walked away from it all to travel another path — the path of the househusband!”

This seems to be one of those manga where you either love it, or it just seems pointless. I’m in the former camp and I adore it! The transposition of the main character’s badass yakuza seriousness into the environment of cooking classes and housecleaning is cracking me up.

There are nine books out so far, and I’m eagerly anticipating Book 10.

The series Delilah Dirk (Read as a webcomic / Amazon / Goodreads) By Tony Cliff.

[Review of Book 1]
Ergemoglu Selim is a Turkish soldier who isn’t much good at actual soldiering, though he does brew excellent tea. In Constantinople in 1807, that’s not a recipe for career success in the military. Selim has at least one other skill, speaking English, which brings him into contact with adventurer and thief Delilah Dirk. She’s imprisoned, he’s assigned to question her… which somehow ends with his head on the chopping block, accused of abetting her escape. Spoiler alert: he gets away.

The book is named for Dirk, and she is a kick-ass woman with awesome hair that defies the laws of physics. Selim, though, is the narrator and the heart of the story. She’s the impetuous adventurer, he’s the realist. It’s not an odd couple dynamic, but a complementary pair of friends who didn’t know how much they needed each other until they met. She brings him out of his shell, and he finds his place in the world as part of her various adventures, rescues, and schemes.

[Update: I enjoyed Books 2 and 3 as well!]

The series Giant Days by John Allison, illustrated by Lissa Treiman, colored by Whitney Cogar, and lettered by Jim Campbell (Amazon / Goodreads)

[Review of Book 1]
This may be one of the perfect first-year-of-college comedy-dramas. Three young women with rooms next to each other become friends through a series of Dramatic! Adventures! told to us in the first volume with one panel each. And that all happened in their first three weeks.

Now they’re confronted with less dramatic but more complicated issues, such as the hot transfer student whom Susan mysteriously hates, Daisy’s burgeoning crush on her classmate Nadia, and Esther getting ranked as highly do-able by the campus bro website. I love books about female friendship where there’s zero rivalry. I love writers who can balance real emotion with banter, and Allison is one of the best. I was a little nervous about how I’d feel seeing his character Esther (one of my faves) drawn by someone else, but Treiman is a perfect fit for the goofball Allison-verse.

[Update: Giant Days is now complete in fourteen volumes, and I loved it all.]

Kill Them All (Amazon / Goodreads) By Kyle Starks, colored by Luigi Anderson.

This is exactly what it says on the tin, and it’s so entertaining. Just don’t eat popcorn while you read it, as you might damage the pages.

“A betrayed murderess wants revenge. A hard drinking former cop wants his job back. For either to get what they want, they’re going to have to fight their way through fifteen flights of criminals, assassins, drug lords, murderers, yup, even accountants, and… KILL. THEM. ALL.” Also described as “a gonzo graphic novel love letter to 90s action movies” and that is not wrong.

I also highly enjoyed The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton by Starks, with illustrations by Chris Schweizer. Same madcap action, but this time it’s the former movie and TV sidekicks of a Chuck Norris type banding together to solve his murder even though they hated him.

Kindergarten Wars by You Chiba (Read for free on MANGA Plus)

“Welcome to Kindergarten Noir, an exclusive school catering to children of the global elite. Rita, one of the teachers, has been on the hunt for a boyfriend but has had absolutely zero luck so far. One day, an assassin comes after one of the children…and he’s totally dreamy?! Dive into this action-packed rom-com as it unfolds inside the world’s ‘safest’ kindergarten!”

The series Fence by C.S. Pacat. Art by Johanna the Mad (Amazon / Goodreads)

Entertaining teen drama graphic novel set at a prestigious private boarding school with a competitive fencing program, with all the rivalries, romances, and burning resentments you could ever hope for from the combination of those two. Very diverse, almost overwhelmingly queer, and I’m enjoying it so far.

THE ONLY PROBLEM is that it takes forever for volumes to come out, and not much happens in each volume. I recently re-read volumes 1-5 in one evening, and that was actually satisfying – whereas when I had read volumes 4 and 5 individually as soon as they came out, I didn’t feel like I got much out of either one.

So if you haven’t started reading Fence yet, now is actually a great time to start because you can read multiple volumes close together.

And that’s the list!