Best Graphic Novels of 2023

Impactful illustrations complement poignant, thought-provoking tales and memoirs in these unforgettable best graphic novels of 2023.


Bell, Darrin. The Talk. Holt. ISBN 9781250805140.

Bell writes an incredibly moving graphic memoir, full of vignettes from his life that offer a critique of the prejudice he’s experienced. All are evocatively drawn in mostly two-tone shades, with effective occasional flashes of additional color—some absolutely stunning, such as when a cop’s face morphs into the dog that terrifies Bell. The powerful story of Bell’s life and his commentary on racism are made even more impactful by his poignant illustrations.

Clowes, Daniel. Monica. Fantagraphics. ISBN 9781683968825.

A woman’s quest to find the mother who abandoned her as a child unfolds across a series of elliptically interconnected short stories evoking the tropes of a variety of genres, including teen romance, war, crime thriller, and supernatural horror. Clowes’s formal ingenuity, meticulous attention to psychological and visual detail, and expert sense of narrative and tone create an emotionally resonant and unforgettable opus, reaffirming his place among the greatest storytellers of our time.

Kindt, Matt (text) & Jean-Denis Pendanx (illus.). Mister Mammoth. Flux House: Dark Horse. ISBN 9781506733173.

Mister Mammoth, the world’s greatest detective, is a perpetually sneering behemoth measuring seven feet from head to toe and nearly as wide across. His latest case, investigating the identity of blackmailers targeting a powerful business executive, finds him increasingly overcome by repressed memories of his traumatic upbringing, in an engrossing existential noir with a finale as shocking as it is genuinely emotionally affecting. Pendanx’s exaggerated figures and noirish color palette perfectly complement the narrative.

Mohamed, Deena. Shubeik Lubeik. Pantheon. tr. from Arabic by Deena Mohamed. ISBN 9781524748418.

This debut depicts a world where genie wishes are mined, bottled, and sold. Mohamed writes clever prose, by turns funny and wrenching, and fills the pages with expressive images. In addition to the compelling stories, she weaves in commentary on colonialism, religion, and ethics but also regularly intersperses doses of humor. A must-read modern folktale set in an alternate universe where wishes come true, but not always as expected.

Park Wan-suh (text) & Keum Suk Gendry- Kim (illus.). The Naked Tree. Drawn & Quarterly. tr. from Korean by Janet Hong. ISBN 9781770466678.

In 1951 Seoul, besieged by the North Korean army, Lee Kyeonga works at an American Post Exchange, managing Korean portrait painters who create souvenirs for U.S. soldiers. Living with her grieving mother, the young woman struggles with guilt over her brothers’ deaths and pines for an exiled painter from the north. Eisner Award winner Gendry-Kim adapts Park’s acclaimed novel with boldly expressive linework. An affecting coming-of-age story amidst political upheaval, foreign occupation, and the devastations of war.

Tamaki, Jillian & Mariko Tamaki. Roaming. Drawn & Quarterly. ISBN 9781770464339.

A weeklong vacation to NYC finds three Canadian college students contemplating their pasts and navigating their uncertain futures. The loose, flowing linework imbues the characters and their surroundings with propulsive energy in this tender examination of young adulthood that emphasizes how exhilarating it is to be young, to be in love, to explore new places and aspects of oneself, and to experience each emotion, good or bad, with newfound and at times overwhelming intensity.

Wertz, Julia. Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story. Black Dog & Leventhal. ISBN 9780762468256.

After opening with a scene that finds her standing beside a wrecked Jeep in the middle of the jungle in Puerto Rico, Wertz flashes back and forth across a five-year period to reveal the failed relationships, professional setbacks, financial disasters, and therapy sessions she endured over the course of her journey to come to terms with addiction and finally embrace sobriety and recovery. Wertz juxtaposes sketchily cartooned figures against intricately detailed backgrounds in this unflinchingly honest, frequently hilarious memoir.

Zdarsky, Chip. Public Domain, Vol. 1: Past Mistakes. Image Comics. ISBN 9781534324572.

Comic book artist Syd Dallas remains obscure despite having created a character whose blockbuster films and merchandise have reaped billions of dollars. When an opportunity to gain control of the character arises, Syd’s adult sons work through their differences to ensure his legacy. A compelling and frequently funny indictment of the industry’s historic failure to compensate creators. Zdarsky illustrates the cinematic story with great attention to physical gestures and nuanced expression, granting a sense of complex interiority.

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