The best graphic novels and comics from the 21st century?

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Nov 23, 2002
I haven't really read comics/graphic novels since the early 1990's, when the big names were Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, with a few others such as Jamie Delano, Dave Gibbons, and Wagner/Grant.

So - if I wanted to read the best comics/graphic novels published in the 21st century, which titles and writers should I be looking at?

Preference, of course, is adult, intelligent, and ground-breaking. Which is why I never really read much Marvel and ended up in DC's Vertigo range - until that seemed to lose steam and purpose.
Here are some I've read and enjoyed, although I've honestly no idea about dates - to me good is good so I'll stick to that: note you've likely come across a good few if you've been following the other threads in the comics section but I'll post a block here for this thread and to help start things off.

Yiu Yiu Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
If you've ever seen any artwork from Warhammer 40000 (the miniatures game) then you'll see the very same appearance of gothic futuristic style in this. A wartime struggle of one assassin and her quest to save her brother in a futuristic world with a strong religious ruling class and an almost mystical/ghost in the shell approach to machines.

Great fun, a very action orientated story with some great artwork.
Completed series

Uber Uber Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
First season is finished and Uber Invasion has started now. Alernate WWII story which jumps between a series of characters in a very "Game of Thrones" style as it follows the changing history of the world when a mysterious message is decoded which contains methods to alter the human genetic code. The result is super-human individuals with god-like powers. However this is NOT a super-hero comic in the least. Indeed until I wrote this I never really even thought of it as a super-hero style comic at all. It's super-human not super-hero.
Good artwork and very solid story and a very much top recommendation (so long as you don't mind blood).
First series complete second ongoing.

Chronicls of the Dragon Knights Chronicles Of The Dragon Knights Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
This is a collection of stories each complete to a single comic issue which detail major events and individuals within the world of the Dragon Knights; virgin female fighters immune to a warping madness spread by mighty dragons. The stories link into each other one after the other in a casual sense that you can see major events influence the future; but each one can be readily read alone or even out of order if you wish. This isn't a complete series, although the speed of publication is very good.
Ongoing series

Blacksad Blacksad Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
It's America of post-WWII era and the time of the private investigator; mixed with the politics, racial elements and all from those times. Mixed up with anthromorphic characters instead of humans; which is taken to give its own twists toward things. Follow the intrepid PI as he tries to uncover murder and other crimes. Gritty edge to it and strong story!
Completed series

Elves Elves Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
There's a selection of these collections including Dwarfs and I think a few others. They are originally French and translated well into english. High detail artwork; strong story lines and each one is a complete story unto itself. They detail adventures and quests of different elves over the world and time. Not a huge amount of inter-connectivity but great reads on their own right.
Ongoing series

Legend of the Scarlet Blades Legend of the Scarlet Blades Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
Izuna Izuna Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK

Two connected series set in the mystical orient. Great story, mythical characters and the age old battle of man VS nature/the wilds/magic. There's a 3rd Izuna publication now, but only in French (I'm very eagerly hoping for its translation and release). The two series stand alone, but Legend of the Scarlet Blade is the first series that sets the world and many of its themes in motion.
Artwork is very reminscient of old Ghibli films and certainly gives me a feeling of that age of animation in the style used.
First complete, second ongoing (poss complete if you can read french)

Saga Saga Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
This is one of those series where if you glance at the preview artwork you might well walk right past it. DON'T. The characters are quirky; the world a little on the strange side but its a top rate story that sinks its claws into you and won't let go. Be prepared for heart-ache and pain as you see characters on different sides of the conflict fighting together and against each other and discover their own internal struggles. A very refreshing experience to have a series with multiple protagonists where you can quickly find that who you thought was evil/bad isn't and who was good might not be quite so nice.
Of all the comics I'm listing this is probably the most current popular one. It's still ongoing.

East of West
East of West Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK

The end times are nigh; the four horsemen are walking the Earth; men are fighting; a father seeks his son; this is a chaotic world on the brink of the end. A fantastic mix of fantasy, mythology and a futuristic setting against a largely western era backdrop with gunslingers; but also going all the way to the orient. Another really top series and still on-going.

Monstress Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
Fantastic artwork and a story set in a mythological and brutal world. This is a mysterious story with some very adult themes as our protagonist tries to understand the world whilst fighting against oppression and the rumblings of war. I must admit I've not actually read some of the newer publications, but I've continued purchasing to keep up until the series is published as I hope to read in a block (may 17 is the date for the last issue in this story arc)

Death Vigil
Death Vigil Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK

Great artwork, interesting story and well worth a read if you like the idea of hidden societies; ghosts ghools and magic. Really great characters and the author/artist is one to keep an eye on for other publications (his other Switch series is very highly regarded as well). First series is finished but there's more than enough story for more to come and high hopes that a second series will come.

Aliens 0 multiple series
Aliens Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK

Mostly older, but well worth it for a return to the grim world of Aliens. Most of them are either written before or take heavy inspiration from those early first two films (indeed some comics are set right after the first film). So most really do bring you back to the golden era of the Alien.

Chronicles of Conan Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK

Old but I'm throwing this in because I honestly think that as a sword swinging adventure they are still fantastic and have a writing style that ideally fits the publication in comics; something that I feel is lacking in some more modern attempts at such characters (mostly limited to Dynamite publisher now and their newer Red Sonja series which, to me, feels like its totally lost its way and that they've burned out their good ideas on it).
I second Saga and East of West and add:

- Black Hole (Charles Burns)
- Fatale (Ed Brubaker / Sean Phillips)
- Invisible Republic (Corinna Bechko / Gabriel Hardman)
- Drifter (Ivan Brandon / Nic Klein)
- The Black Monday Murders (Jonathan Hickman / Tomm Coker)

Alan Moore still writes comics, and I would recommend the Promethea mini-series (magic, fantasy, female deities/superheroes and an ode to imagination and storytelling) and Providence (about Lovecraft's works and the city he lived most of his life in).
What's the series with all the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson characters living together in Manhatton? In the first story Bigby aka The Big Bad Wolf in human form is trying to solve a murder...
Sounds like Fables!

Have you heard of 20th Century Boys? It's a Japanese series by Naoki Urasawa.
It's more focused on nostalgia and relationships, but gets very psychological and supernatural (as does a lot of Urasawa's work, and the series Monster by him is another one of my favorites). Admittedly, it's not mega on science fiction, it treats those things very realistically, but some elements definitely come up and a lot of the story deals with telepathy. If you're looking for intelligent storytelling, he is pretty much #1 in my books.
I can think of a few!

The Boys-Garth Ennis : A whole new take on the superhero genre. Who watches the Watchmen? Well if they existed in this universe the answer would be The Boys. In a world where superheros aren't the shining beacons of morality we believe them to be, The Boys are a Black Ops style team with ties to the CIA who keep the supes in check. It's one of the most NSFW comics I can think of full of sex,drugs,violence and debauchery. The story is almost as good as Ennis work on Preacher.

Daytripper-Fabio Moon: Each issue takes place at a different point in the main character's (Bras) life. Each issue shows us a day in Bras' life at different ages, dealing with different life events. The loss of family and friends,the birth of his first child, a night of social drinking. The book isn't written in chronological order meaning the tone and themes changes quite a bit between issues. There is one twist though, Bras dies at the end of every issue. It's well written, philosophical,intelligent, and beautifully illustrated.

Ed Brubaker: He isn't a book, he's a writer. Most of his independent stuff has been incredible, and a fair amount of his mainstream Marvel/DC stuff as well
1. Fatale: A supernatural noir. Very much inspired by Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos.
2. The Fade Out: Noir murder mystery set in 1940's Hollywood
3.Gotham Central: It might be DC, but it's not a superhero book. It focuses on the lives of the GCPD. It's a book about being a cop in the one of the worlds most dangerous cities. Being set in Gotham batman will make the odd cameo,two or three panels and he's gone. Brubaker shared writing duties with the talented Greg Rucka alternating between story arcs.
4.Kill or Be Killed: Depressed college student tries to kill himself. His life is spared by a demon who offers him the chance to live, at the cost of one other persons life per month. Wanting to live but refusing to hurt innocent people, Dylan begins looking for people who's lives are worth less than his own.
5.Criminal: Haven't gotten to it myself yet but apparently is a great read, it's on my to buy list.
My personal favorites are the Captain Marvel series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. It's what made Carol Danvers my favorite superhero. I also probably liked the movie a lot more than most because they gave fans of this series a lot of nods.

To me this comic series was the best version of what DC tried to do with Superman. Superman is so ridiculously powerful that there really is no challenge for him except for this very rare green rock that everybody has. So the only side of him that seems to present a challenge is dealing with the fallout of being so powerful and still living in a very human world.

This Captain marvel series does just that for me. It shows somebody with incredible power (though not quite Superman strength) who still lives a very human life. She still has ambitions, friends and family that have problems, and the stress of everyday life. But they also show a person with a big heart.

One of my favorite parts in the series was this day where she was very busy being a crime-fighting superhero; taking on very mundane villains like a big dinosaur thing and robbers, etc. when suddenly she sees this little girl that lives in the apartment across from her being bullied at a park after school. The little girl doesn't have a lot of friends or family outside of her sick mother (or grandmother? Been a while since I read it). She flies down and tells the bullies to buzz off. Now at this point she could fly the girl home in a few seconds and go on with her day as a crime fighter. But she decides instead to walk the girl home and take the time to talk to her and be a part of her life, which made all the difference in the world to that girl. This to me is the best representation of who Carol Danvers is as a character. Somebody who is both so powerful and so human at the same time.
Based on your tastes, I think you'd really like these:

Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, Planetary (1999-2009). The Omnibus has everything.

Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming, Powers (80+ issues since 2000)

Pete Milligan and Mike Allred, X-Statix (2002-2004)

Dan Slott and Mike Allred, Silver Surfer (29 issues, 2014-2017)

David Hine and Shaky Kane, Bulletproof Coffin (two volumes of six issues each, 2010-2012, plus a later one-shot)

Also strongly seconding Charles Burns, Black Hole.
Green Lantern during the Geoff Johns days was mind blowing. Sinestro Corps Wars turned a B-List villain (Sinestro) into the scariest nemesis in D.C. next to Darkseid, and Blackest Night was just frightening.

Plus, he did the sequel to Watchmen nobody thought anybody could pull off, Doomsday Clock!

To anybody that hasn't read a comic in the 21st century, just pick up anything Johns has done. Everything this guy touches comic wise is gold.
Monstress Digital Comics - Comics by comiXology: Web UK
Fantastic artwork and a story set in a mythological and brutal world. This is a mysterious story with some very adult themes as our protagonist tries to understand the world whilst fighting against oppression and the rumblings of war. I must admit I've not actually read some of the newer publications, but I've continued purchasing to keep up until the series is published as I hope to read in a block (may 17 is the date for the last issue in this story arc)

Definitely recommend Monstress. I've just got my hands on volume 4, and I haven't awaited a release so keenly since the first LOTR film. Or maybe ever.

I've also really been enjoying Paper Girls, now on vol 6, about four 12-year-old girls who are delivering newspapers in 1988 when they get caught up in a time war. Very intriguing so far, with some adult themes (though nothing too traumatic), some emotional story arcs and some very nice art.
Wiley's Shakespeare Manga Editions.

I vote for Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Angola Janga (about a Kingdom of runaway slaves in Brazil), Saga, What it Is by Lynda Barry, the 2015-2016 Vision series, and... Snot Girl might not be for everyone, but I love it.

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