Best Graphic Novels 2019

Visual storytelling at the higest level. The best graphic novels published in 2019.

See all of our 2019 Best Books lists.

Deitch, Kim. Reincarnation Stories. Fantagraphics. ISBN 9781683962618. F
Opening with a scene suggestive of memoir, with Deitch conjuring his earliest memory as a four-year-old grappling with his own reincarnation after recovering from eye surgery, this new collection in nearly a decade from the multiaward winner then expertly segues into wildly imaginative tales spanning Old Hollywood, the life of Jesus, and a group of Nez Perce living on the moon.
 
Ennis, Garth (text) & Steve Epting & Elizabeth Breitweiser (illus.). Sara. TKO. ISBN 9781732748538. HISTORICAL FICTION
From the inimitable Ennis, this harrowing tale of an all-female team of Russian snipers battling the Nazis in 1942 isn’t just another war story. Epting and Breitweiser’s perfectly matched illustrations and the depth of feeling, psychological gravity, and attention to detail culminate in the epic military historical fiction toward which Ennis has been steadily working.
 
Jacob, Mira. Good Talk. Random. ISBN 9780399589041. MEMOIR
Good news: this bold memoir of an interracial marriage and family, which uses clip art–style graphics and doubles as a highly personal treatise on race, identity, and realpolitik in an increasingly polarized America, is as edifying and touching as it is singular.
 
Keum Suk Gendry-Kim. Grass. Drawn & Quarterly. tr. from Korean by Janet Hong. ISBN 9781770463622. MEMOIR
In 1942, Granny Lee Ok-sun was kidnapped and forced to serve as a “comfort woman” to soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army for the remainder of World War II. Based on interviews with Ok-sun and rendered with exquisite brushwork, Gendry-Kim’s account delivers uncommonly powerful reading about survival and the struggle for agency in the aftermath of incredible trauma.
 
King, Tom (text) & Mitch Gerads (illus.). Mister Miracle. DC. ISBN 9781401283544. SUPERHERO
Occasional superhero, full-time world-famous escape artist Scott Free is shaken when wife Barda announces she’s pregnant just as tensions reignite between his home planet, New Genesis, and Apokolips, the nightmarish world where he was raised. Superheroic action serves as a metaphor for the struggle to overcome a painful past in this reimagining of classic characters created by Jack Kirby.
 
Nury, Fabian (text) & Sylvain Vallée (illus.). Once upon a Time in France. Dead Reckoning: Naval Inst. tr. from French by Ivanka Hahnenberger. ISBN 9781682474716. HISTORICAL FICTION/THRILLER
Immigrating to France from Romania in the 1920s, Joseph Joanovici builds an empire in the scrap-metal business, becoming one of the richest men in Europe in the years leading up to the German occupation. Supplying the Nazis in order to keep his family safe, he simultaneously funds the French Resistance in this morally complex and thrilling work.
 
Seth. Clyde Fans. Drawn & Quarterly. ISBN 9781770463578. F
This melancholy, one-of-a-kind triumph examines the impact of time, aging, and memory using the stories of two brothers and their failed family business. Of course, there’s more to this two-decades-in-the-making masterpiece; it would be the crowning achievement of any cartoonist’s career, but considering Seth’s work ethic and the consistent quality of his output, the sky is his limit.
 
Siciliano, Gina. I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi. Fantagraphics. ISBN 9781683962113. BIOG
Banned from receiving formal training and tortured by officials eager for her to recant after bringing charges against her rapist, Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi nevertheless persisted in creating works of art on par with any by her more famous male counterparts. Siciliano’s passion for her subject is clear on every gorgeously crafted page of this painstakingly researched biography.
 
Walker, David (text) & Damon Smyth & others (illus.). The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of a Slave’s Journey from Bondage to Freedom. Ten Speed: Crown. ISBN 9780399581441. BIOG
Born into slavery and later honored by dignitaries around the world, Frederick Douglass led a remarkable life. This vividly drawn, comprehensive biography follows his heart-rending journey from Maryland to Massachusetts, where he eventually wrote and lectured on the evils of slavery. Walker succeeds brilliantly in his aim to have Douglass “narrate” the book himself, using his subject’s published works to guide the narrative voice.
 
Ware, Chris. Rusty Brown. Pantheon. ISBN 9780375424328. F
This masterly designed exploration of the profoundly entangled lives of a group of characters all either attending or employed by a Midwestern parochial school in the 1970s traverses space and time and audaciously challenges the limits of graphic storytelling, highlighting how our seemingly innocuous interactions can reverberate across entire lifetimes.

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