Best Graphic Novels of 2020

Kent State, Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse, a loving look at a comics icon. The best graphic novels published in 2020.

See all of our 2020 Best Books lists


Backderf, Derf. Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio. ComicsArts: Abrams ISBN 9781419734847.

A meticulously researched work of creative nonfiction that serves as an incendiary corrective to the myths surrounding the National Guard occupation of Kent State University campus in May 1970. This memorial to the lives lost or forever altered should be required reading for all Americans.


Bell, Gabrielle. Inappropriate. Uncivilized. ISBN 9781941250389.

Memoir and fiction stand side by side in this frequently hilarious, occasionally melancholy story collection. Each tale displays Bell’s masterly storytelling and the raw expression of an artist who can’t help pondering the world, wondering about her place in it, and offering her observations with unflinching honesty.


Brubaker, Ed (text) & Sean Phillips (illus.). Pulp. Image. ISBN 9781534316447.

In 1930s New York City, an aging author of pulp novels set in the Old West teams up with a former Pinkerton agent to steal a fortune collected by American Nazis before it can be donated to the Fatherland. The twists and turns are thrilling, but what lingers beyond the last page is longing for an America that only ever existed in adventure stories.


Chong, Vivian (text) & Georgia Webber (illus.). Dancing After TEN. Fantagraphics. ISBN 9781683963165.

Chong’s stirring memoir recounts her harrowing experience with a rare skin condition known as toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), which causes burns and scar tissue all over the body. Her recovery and quest to make meaning of her life during the painful healing process takes center stage in this engaging and educating account that never feels teachy or preachy.


Fraction, Matt (text) & Steve Lieber (illus.). Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen? DC. ISBN 9781779504623.

This dazzlingly unpredictable, pleasantly surreal celebration of Silver Age comics sends Jimmy Olsen on a screwball adventure to solve his own murder, outwit Lex Luthor, and best Batman in an escalating prank war. One of the most purely enjoyable, unashamedly fun, and funny mainstream releases in years.


Passmore, Ben. Sports Is Hell. Koyama. ISBN 9781927668757.

The final moments of the Super Bowl are interrupted by a series of explosions around the stadium, causing a massive blackout that leads to complete chaos in this lacerating, darkly hilarious howl against racism, sports fandom, and tribalism in general by an artist with a distinct and necessary vision.


Russell, Mark (text) & Steve Pugh (illus.). Billionaire Island. Ahoy Comics. ISBN 9781952090028.

In 2044, as climate change and overpopulation lead society to the verge of collapse, Earth’s wealthiest residents escape to Freedom Unlimited, a luxurious artificial island. This is a riotous, scathing satire of the excesses of the ultrarich and the broader culture that empowers them, from creators with a unique comedic sensibility rooted in both exasperation and deep compassion for humankind.


Scioli, Tom. Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics. Ten Speed: Crown. ISBN 9781984856906.

In this loving, energetic biography, Scioli presents Jack Kirby’s story through a carefully researched, fictionalized first-person point of view. Capturing the cartoonist’s larger-than-life personality, Scioli adds extra pathos to his final decades, which found the King of Comics struggling to get credit—and compensation—for his massive contribution to American culture.


Tomine, Adrian. The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. Drawn & Quarterly. ISBN 9781770463950.

From a less skilled creator, the litany of awkward encounters and humiliations depicted here might have become repetitive; instead, Tomine’s mortifying misadventures become funnier and more emotionally resonant in the latter part of this memoir, as professional success and a growing family find the anger and anxiety that ruled the author’s early years transformed into an insightful and profound vulnerability.


Vonnegut, Kurt & Ryan North (text) & Albert Monteys (illus.). Slaughter House-Five. Archaia: Boom! ISBN 9781684156252.

This brilliant adaptation of Vonnegut’s classic antiwar story retains the original author’s playfully mordant and deeply compassionate voice while taking full advantage of the opportunity to convey the fractured narrative visually, resulting in the best and most effective graphic novel adaptation of a literary novel in recent memory.


See all of our 2020 Best Books lists

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